Houston Restaurant Mask Requirements Starting On March 10, 2021 — Updated
This list is continuing to be updated as more information becomes available, and there is much more to come. To be included, restaurant and bar owners can email their plans to us. Last updated 3/10/2021, 8:11 a.m.
Starting on Wednesday, March 10, Governor Greg Abbott is removing the state-level mask and social distancing mandates intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19. All businesses — including bars, which have been required to stay closed since June 26, 2020 — will be allowed to operate at 100% capacity.
The big question, of course, is whether the decision will lead to another spike in COVID-19 cases. According to the Texas Tribune, only 6.5% of Texans have been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday, March 2.
As Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo stated on Twitter the day of Abbott’s announcement, private business owners are fully within their rights to require anyone who enters their businesses to follow mask and social distancing rules (much like a “no shoes, no shirt, no service” dress code). “As a reminder to our fellow Texans, private businesses enjoy property rights and may require folks to wear a mask. Please respect their property rights. If you decline to wear a mask and are asked to leave and refuse, you may be committing the offense of criminal trespass,” he wrote.
As private businesses, bars and restaurants can still require social distancing and the wearing of masks, but the lack of state government support is likely to make it a much more difficult and controversial task. However, the federal government is still enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing where it is able to do so, such as on federal property and on public conveyances, such as airplanes. In addition, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is requiring mask-wearing at city-owned venues and buildings, such as libraries, city hall and the George R. Brown Convention Center. So, masks aren’t going away for a while yet.
Regardless, Abbott’s decision to rescind the Open Texas safety requirements has now split the dining and drinking public into two groups: those who are eager to celebrate without restrictions and those who are more cautious and looking for safe outings. It’s not possible to please everyone, so restaurant owners are taking multiple approaches: maintaining the current safety standards, requiring masks for employees but not customers or going back to business as usual. If you visit a restaurant, keep in mind that whatever they chose, this is not an easy decision for owners. Be kind.
Restaurants Requiring Social Distancing & Mask-Wearing by Employees & Customers
Flying Saucer Beer Draught Emporium, 705 Main: A Tweet stated, “We will continue as we were, less than 50% capacity and masks still required for service. We will also be opening our second floor area to maximize customer distancing.”
Xochi, 1777 Walker: H Town Restaurant Group, operated by restaurateur Tracy Vaught and chef Hugo Ortega, is requiring masks and social distancing by employees and customers alike at all of its businesses, including Oaxacan restaurant Xochi.
Neil’s Bahr, 2006 Walker: The bar’s Facebook post on the issue was to-the-point: “[…] we’ll stop enforcing masks when it’s safe to do so. PLEASE still show up to Houston businesses with your mask ready! It’s about slowing the spread and protecting others. Some businesses will still require masks next week, others will not. Good for them! It’s their choice! Neil’s Bahr will be requiring a mask for entry until further notice.”
Caracol, 2200 Post Oak: In a statement, restaurateur Tracy Vaught and chef Hugo Ortega’s H Town Restaurant Group wrote, “Out of an abundance of caution and utmost concern for our employees and guests, H Town Restaurant Group will continue operating at a reduced capacity, limiting large groups and requiring face masks when entering the restaurant and moving about the dining rooms. We will monitor this closely and make decisions we feel are best for our employees, our business and those we care about – all of you!”
Kenny & Ziggy’s, 2327 Post Oak: According to a social media post, owner Ziggy Gruber intends to maintain mask requirements for both employees and customers, as well as socially distanced seating and the resulting reduced capacity.
TRIBUTE at The Houstonian, 110 North Post Oak: “We will continue our mask-wearing protocols for employees and guests at The Houstonian, including TRIBUTE restaurant,” says campus director Seliece Womble.
Fish Co. Taco, 1914 23rd: “It’s Texas. You don’t have to be a cowboy, but FishCo still requires you dress like one,” wrote owner Dayna Meyers-Hurt on social media. That means, yes, you need a face covering. A jaunty bandana will do.
Antidote Coffee, 727 Studewood: The business posted on Facebook, “We are still requiring masks inside for the safety of our staff and guests. Thanks for understanding.”
To the loyal fans and to the possible future customers,
My name is Jason Cho and I am the owner of the business. I…
Dak & Bop, 1805 West 18th: Owner Jason Cho’s reasons for maintaining the current mask and social distancing policies include some intensely personal ones. “I have two beautiful daughters at home that are very vulnerable and high risk for COVID due to having asthma and underlying heart conditions. And with me being a hands on owner and being present at the business on a daily basis, I am putting myself and my family at risk for the sake of keeping my businesses alive in order to support my family during these impossible times – just like so many of you out there who are having to make these hard choices between safety and survival. I’ve made this decision with my family in mind but also my staff and customers’ health as well.”
Good Dog Houston, 903 Studewood: Citing concerns about how few Texans are fully vaccinated thus far, owner Daniel Caballero wrote, “We at Good Dog Houston – Heights will continue to maintain our socially distanced indoor and outdoor seating, sanitizer stations will remain in place, customers will still be required to wear a mask while walking around and not seated at their table, and our team members will 100% continue to be masked up at all times during their shifts. This wasn’t a hard decision to make. We care for the well-being of our team, their families, our families, and for everyone who walks in the door at our restaurant.”
Harold’s Restaurant & Tap Room, 350 19th: “The state government has left it up to individual businesses and our policy remains,” wrote owner Alli Jarrett. “We at Harold’s believe it is important that masks be worn until our staff and guests have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. We will still be at limited capacity. We are open for business and appreciate guests who want to dine in or take out!”
Revival Market, 550 Heights: The market and café posted the following to social media: “We have made the decision to continue on as we have for the last year out of an abundance of caution for our staff and our customers. Thank you for respecting this decision and for all of your support throughout the last year.”
Teotihuacan Mexican Cafe, 1511 Airline: The long-standing Heights home for Tex-Mex posted the following on Facebook: “We understand that the mask mandate has been lifted and the [occupancy] for businesses have gone up to 100%. However, we will continue to have the same safety and health protocols we have had in place in the past few months moving forward.
Every guest will be required to have a mask for both pick-up and dine-in. All employees will still be wearing a mask. We are looking out for both our employees’ safety, their family’s safety and our guests’ safety. Not all of our staff, or our staff’s family have received vaccines and we feel this is the best for everyone moving forward. We know not everyone will agree with this decision, but we think it is the best decision for us to keep our guests and employees safe.”
Black Hole Coffee House, 4504 Graustark: “For the safety of our staff and guests, we are requiring masks still be worn while indoors. Thanks and stay safe,” reads a Facebook post.
Camerata at Paulie’s, 1830 Westheimer: Paul Petronella’s wine bar adjacent to his long-running Italian restaurant, Paulie’s, is continuing to operate at reduced capacity and requiring both staff and guests to “continue to wear masks as they move around our spaces.”
Hugo’s, 1600 Westheimer: As is the case with the other Tracy Vaught and Hugo Ortega-owned restaurants, Hugo’s is maintaining its current safety protocols, which include mask-wearing and social distancing by employees and patrons alike.
Grand Prize Bar, 1010 Banks: On Instagram, the bar posted, “Despite what Governor Abbott just said, we will still be operating at limited capacity, limiting large groups and requiring mask. We are still listening to our neighbors in the Medical Center. If that’s not your vibe, that’s OK. There are other bars that might be.” It is worth noting that the decision comes despite the attack on a Grand Prize Bar employee in December 2020 by a patron asked to wear a mask when moving about the bar. The customer smashed a glass into the employee’s head. The cuts required 10 stitches to close and the attacker was subsequently arrested and charged with not only assault, but also for drug possession.
Kau Ba, 2502 Dunlavy: Posts on the Vietnamese restaurant’s social media read, “Houston, we are hopeful for better days! While we are happy to see your smiling faces, we kindly ask you to wear your masks when visiting us. For everyone’s safety, we will continue to operate as we have in the past year. Our staff will remain masked and temperatures will be taken at the door.”
Paulie’s, 1834 Westheimer: In a statement posted to the restaurant’s Facebook and Instagram pages, owner Paul Petronella says, “We are close to normalcy, but not quite there yet in my opinion.” When visiting, expect to wear a mask when walking around the space. Employees will also be masked up.
Lucille’s, 5512 La Branch: Planning to enjoy chef Chris William’s southern cuisine? Better bring a mask, as the “no mask, no service” policy remains in place.
Rainbow Lodge, 2011 Ella: Owner Donnette Hansen says that the over 40-year-old restaurant focused on a wild game and local produce menu is staying the course for at least the next month. That means guests and employees alike are still required to mask up when walking around the restaurant and tables will be distanced six feet apart both in the cozy dining areas and landscaped patios.
Nirmanz Food Boutique, 16338 Kensington: According to owner and chef Nirman Shah, the popular and long-running Indian restaurant is continuing to uphold its current safety policies. “We still feel that social distancing and masks are important, as this pandemic has not come to an end yet. We will make sure that social distancing at six-feet is still followed at our restaurant, and individuals must enter with a mask to ensure the most safety for all of our staff and customers.”
Pondicheri, 2800 Kirby: James Beard Award semifinalist chef Anita Jaisinghani is maintaining her restaurant’s maintaining mask and social distancing. Pondicheri also sports a patio with about 25 tables, and additional seating on the new raised wooden deck.
Moderno Tacos & Tex-Mex, 10455 Briar Forest: After polling social media followers and getting a tremendous response, owner John Moore is continuing to require masks and social distancing at this casual Mexican café.
Beck’s Prime: According to Mike Knapp, chief operating officer: “Our priority is the health and safety of our employees and customers. We will continue to require our employees to wear masks while at work. We will also require our customers to wear a mask until seated at their table.” The popular, long-running local chain for burgers, steaks, seafood dishes and more has 11 locations across Houston, but do note that the one downtown is temporarily closed.
According to the Governor’s statement, “Businesses may still limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols at…
Michael’s Cookie Jar: The local, gourmet cookie shop with three locations will continue requiring customers to wear masks when moving about the shop.
Palazzo’s: Owner John Moore posted that his two locations at 2620 Briar Ridge and 10455 Briar Forest would maintain social distancing and mask requirements for guests and employees for now.
Restaurants & Bars Requiring Employees to Wear Masks, but Not Customers
Mezzanotte, 13215 Grant: Owner Gerry Sarmiento says, “We are going to continue sanitation procedures and wearing masks. Our customers, however, can choose to wear or not. We will honor requests for isolated tables.”
Whitmeyer’s Distilling, 16711 Hollister: “I intend to maintain the protocols for employees, but I’m not kicking a customer out,” wrote owner Travis Whitmeyer on Facebook.
Roma, 2347 University: Owner Shanon Scott says that he’s requiring masks for employees but not customers. He is still planning on reduced capacity, although he wasn’t sure on the percentage as of press time. Other safety protocols remain in place. “We will definitely still wear masks and gloves, sanitize the menus, provide sanitizer for the guests, wipe all tables down with sanitizer after every use and clean restrooms every 15 minutes,” he wrote.
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.