Restaurants brace for less occupancy under executive order as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations rise in Bexar County

Drive-thru, customer loyalty sustain some in hard times

SAN ANTONIO – Two small local restaurants are preparing for any further restrictions on their occupancy due to San Antonio’s persistent 15% COVID-19 hospitalization rate and rising case numbers.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order mandates occupancy levels must be lowered from 75% to 50% when there are seven consecutive days where the number of COVID‑19 hospitalized patients exceeded 15% of the total hospital capacity.

“Right now, it’s not really about profit. It’s really more about staying alive,” said Pepe Tamez, owner of Pepe’s Tacos and Salsa on Jones Maltsberger Road.

His restaurant and the neighboring one, Gogi’s Street Korean Fusion, have learned the value of having drive-thru convenience for their customers.

Nicholas Castillo, the manager at Gogi Street, said, fortunately, the previous occupant had the drive-thru window, but he’d never used it until the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“It does slow it down a little bit to have everybody just calling in orders rather than showing up and placing orders,” Castillo said.

Castillo said he’s hired more staff who are better trained to handle those orders since the food that’s prepared is fresh, not ready-to-go.

Although some of his customers dine in, Tamez said that most prefer the convenience of the drive-thru.

He said, unlike so many other restaurants that didn’t make it, “We’re blessed. We’re still here, so that’s a good thing.”

Tamez said he’s been able to hold on to his employees and pay his bills.

He said he’s also thankful for loyal customers who believe in buying local, like Christi Crawford.

“If you’re going to go out and spend your money, do your research and try and support your community, the people around you,” Crawford said.

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