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Southeast Texas businesses increase occupancy to 75% as region's hospitalization rate decreases

For the first time since late December, restaurants across our region can increase their occupancy.

BEAUMONT, Texas — This week Southeast Texas finally fell below the 15 percent rate of coronavirus hospitalizations. The improvement allows businesses to move to 75 percent occupancy and bars to reopen.

For the first time since late December, restaurants across our region can increase their occupancy to 75 percent. Some say the situation isn't as black and white as it may seem.

From the empty tables to signage on the walls, evidence of a pandemic is still on display at Bruno’s Italian Kitchen.

One restaurant owner says the additional capacity may make it harder for them to comply with the CDC’s guidelines.

"Very, very challenging year, for sure. As a business owner, it's been a challenge to keep the business going," said Zamira Gyriqi, owner of Bruno's Italian Kitchen in Beaumont.

At one point, things got so bad, the owner had to lay off her entire staff. It was the only way she could make up for the lost revenue as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

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"It was hard, yes. It was hard because we had no work for them. Then it was hard for us to get them back, but thank God for family that we are all here,” Gyriqi said.

This week, the region's hospitalization rate dipped below 15 percent for several days, giving Bruno’s and other restaurants across Southeast Texas the ability to operate at 75 percent occupancy.

Gyriqi says more bodies means more revenue, but increased capacity could also pose some challenges.

"Nobody has to worry about the occupancy because no one is going to fill up 100 percent,” Gyriqi said. “After you follow the social distance and all the rules, we can't do 100 percent and it hasn't been that busy for dine in. Thank God for the to-go orders."

It's another box to check while taking COVID-19 precautions, but Gyriqi believes things are headed in the right direction, thanks in large part to the community's support.

"A lot of hard work and dedication, and we have the most wonderful customers,” Gyriqi said. “We could not do it without them, their support. They've been wonderful. They've been supporting us through the hardest time, so we made it thanks to our wonderful customers."

Next week Beaumont's Convention and Visitor Bureau is hosting Eat Beaumont restaurant week, which is to encourage locals to support eateries across the city.

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