PORT ARANSAS, Texas — As a result of the governor’s decision Tuesday to lift the state’s mask mandate and all restrictions tied to capacity, the news comes as a double-edged sword that’s positive financially, but at the cost of less power for Texas businesses.
“It’s tricky,” said Vanessa Garcia, general manager of Bernie's Beach House, a Port Aransas bar that transitioned into a restaurant so they could remain open during the pandemic. “Our industry was very heavily impacted by all of the closures and all the shutdowns and all of that. I think by the end of last summer, it was us and tube rentals that weren’t allowed to open
“Given that we have the freedom to be our business again, that’s actually and exciting thing, but it doesn’t necessarily dismiss our concerns.”
Garcia said she’s continued to make the safety of her staff a priority, as most of her employees have either contracted COVID-19 and recovered or been vaccinated. Still, she wishes the lessening of restrictions would have come in steps.
“If we had it our way, we would have asked for a transition, throw it open 100 percent, but maybe keep the mask mandate in place just to help soften the potential impact,” she said.
Now able to open at full capacity come Wednesday, March 10, Garcia joins numerous businesses that will still require their own staff to wear masks.
At a time when massive tourism is likely just a little more than a week away, the Port Aransas-native said it would be an uphill battle to enforce any kind of mask orders.
“We don’t feel like it will be feasible moving forward because there’s nothing backing us up,” Garcia said. “If we chose to do it, and continue the mask mandate and enforcing it — we feel like we’d lose business because our competitors may not be doing it and people come to this environment to be free.”
Melissa Shook, owner of Fire It! Ceramics, a business along South Alister in Port Aransas, echoes Garcia’s point that she will continue to welcome businesses while she and her staff remain masked.
“I want my customers to feel safe, so my staff will continue to wear them and I am going to leave it up to each individual painter that comes in to make their own choice,” Shook said. “They’re in charge of their own health. All I can do as do my very best to make them feel safe that I have their health in mind also.”
In a phone call with David Parsons, the Port Aransas city manager didn’t mention any concerns with the mask mandate being lifted, but said he expects to see large crowd in light of spring break and believes the weather will be pleasant.
“We’re following the governor’s orders,” Parsons said.