Opinion: With Devastating Floods, Houston Restaurants & Bars Should Only Open For The Right Reasons
From editor Phaedra Cook with additions by Josh Armendariz:
In light of the unprecedented, devastating flooding occurring across Houston and the surrounding areas, business owners need to take a strictly conscientious approach to whether or not to be open.
Here are good reasons to be open:
- To help the surrounding community—your immediate neighbors—and take care of basic needs: food, drink, a dry place to rest, charge phones and provide access to a clean restroom.
- The restaurant or bar is not touched by floodwaters
- The ability to maintain sanitary conditions as required by law is intact
- Owners are working performing work themselves and not trying to force employees to come in
Here is a bad reason to be open: money. This is not the time to attempt to draw diners out of their homes with some kind of promotion or special in an attempt to make a profit. Today (Sunday, August 27), you will not have enough customers for that to happen, so forget it.
Houston is a rich city, full of fantastic businesses propped up by their communities. Encouraging patrons to put themselves in danger because the competition is closed is a terrible maneuver.
In addition, trying to force employees—many of whom do not make much money or have insurance benefits—is flat-out wrong. Last night, many restaurant and bar workers found themselves stranded with flooded vehicles. Some walked home in waist-deep floodwaters, risking contact with snakes, fire ants, sewage and God knows what else. Some made it home, but it took hours or even all night to get there.
If you are opening in the spirit of helping your community—and are doing it safely—we applaud your efforts.
Don’t open for any other reason and needlessly endanger others. Do not punish employees for valuing family over employer. If no other reason will motivate you, perhaps this one will: people will remember what you did, and why.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.
Many families want to eat out.
Cabin fever is real.
Because the competition is closed? Sounds like the villain restaurant owner from a movie. Nobody should be pressured to return to work, correct, but you also don’t have to walk on water to get back to work. Many employees are pressuring owners to open — they need paychecks and owners need revenue for overhead. Rent is still due for everyone this week
Understood, but at what cost? It should not be at the risk of anyone’s life. When it is safe to do so, then by all means, people need to get back to work. That’s not only for the sake of their income, but for the sake of the overall city economy.
Whataburger was an outstanding example of how a company organized to provide for the community back during the aftermath of hurricane Ike. Although the circumstances following the initial impact of the storm were different, I really appreciated how they broadcasted a call for anyone willing to work to open any stores that were operational. They worked hard to provide food who needed it and even offered extra pay to compensate for the troubles. I never forgot the time i saw their call for help on air- it really made me appreciate them a whole lot more as a Texas business.
Beverly Lindquist, owner of The Loan Star Saloon in Richmond Texas looked at the forecast and decided to close until Monday to protect employees and patrons. Richmond/Rosenberg is on the “”dirty” side of most storms with a history of flooding. Probably the best bar/restaurant owner I’ve worked fo r in my 30 years in the business.
I disagree. Everyone needs to stay put — no one should be out. The city is a disaster, and more rain is coming. Anyone who ventures out at this time intentionally puts themself and our city’s overburdened first responders in harm’s way. An employer may be able to get to work now, but no guarantees they’ll be able to get back home.
If a place is a few blocks from someone’s house (and is safer/drier), that’s one thing. If a restaurant or bar is trying to tempt people from miles away or force employees to come in, it’s just wrong.