PORT ARANSAS, Texas — Governor Greg Abbott's stay-at-home order expires at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, and one Coastal Bend city is ready to welcome visitors back.
“Port Aransas is open for fun starting Friday,” said Port Aransas Tourism Bureau & Chamber of Commerce Interim CEO Keith McMullin.
Port A’s ban on short-term rentals and beach recreation ended at 11:59 pm Monday. News of that announcement came as music to the ears of many in this city, which is so dependent on the tourism industry.
I.B. Magee Beach Park in Port Aransas was a popular spot Tuesday, the first day people were allowed back on the beach for more than just exercise.
“Our beach is 18 miles long," business owner Jay Honeck said. "We can put a lot of people on that beach without crowding.”
At Amelia’s Landing, Honeck and his wife, Mary, were taking reservations all day. With stay-at-home orders ending statewide Thursday, the Honecks can’t wait to have guests, but they also want their guests to be safe.
”Everyone's got to have common sense,” Honeck said. “Social distancing still works; wear a mask if it makes you feel more comfortable.'
Abbott’s new orders allow restaurants, such as the Venetian Hot Plate, to open at 25 percent capacity.
“I have mixed feelings,” said owner Linda Halioua. “I’m excited, but not really -- too soon it seems like.”
The Venetian Hot Plate reopened for takeout last week. As a native Italian, Halioua is especially concerned with the novel coronavirus. She’s not sure if she’ll open her dining room Friday.
“I’m still debating -- three days from now -- what I’m going to do,” Halioua said.
She said if she opens, her staff will be taking precautions -- including wearing masks; a common theme around the city.
“Our lodging partners and restaurants in town, of course, are going to be strictly adhering to the new guidelines,” said McMullin.
McMullin believes the fact that Port A is a driving destination will make the city a popular one.
Business owners in Port Aransas say they likely won’t know how much impact restrictions on tourism had until they see their savings when the slow season starts in the winter.