Serious situation

Dreamstime/TNS

WATERTOWN — Starting Wednesday night, all staff at Texas Roadhouse will be wearing masks, and there will be a sign on the door that says customers are supposed to wear a mask when they aren’t seated.

Another mask requirement — that also isn’t a mask requirement — is just another thing restaurant owners have to deal with.

Officials on Wednesday announced that Jefferson County was in a state of emergency as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the north country. As a result, masks are again required in public spaces, but it’s not as strict as last time. Since this requirement comes from the county level, no state officials — or any others — will enforce the mask requirement, and no business will face consequences if they don’t follow the rules.

Chris Horton, general manager of Texas Roadhouse on Arsenal Street, said he intends to put the sign up that says customers are required to wear masks if they aren’t seated, no matter their vaccination status. Before masks were required, he said around 35% to 40% of staff members wore a mask. That number will shoot to 100% Wednesday night for dinner.

“We’re going to do what we’re supposed to do,” he said. “We’re going to put our knee on the ground and do what they say. It kind of sucks.”

Like Mr. Horton, Buffy Golden, owner of O’Brien’s Restaurant and Bar in Clayton, said she understands why the state of emergency was declared. Hospitals are inundated, and she knows some people are concerned.

“Still, it’s going to have an effect on our business,” Mrs. Golden said. “Who’s going to want to go out?”

These business owners want things to get back to normal. Their tone around it all has changed somewhat, though. They haven’t given up, but it seems like this state of emergency is just another addition to a long list of challenges they’re already facing — from staffing to food deliveries.

Maggie’s on the River on Newell Street has been open seven days a week throughout the pandemic. The spot just finished a renovation and is set to begin serving its brick-oven pizza in the coming weeks, and Maggie’s isn’t going anywhere.

“I think for us, we’ll follow whatever guidelines we’re given because we want to operate in a state of compliance,” said Jake Johnson, one of the owners. If it keeps the general public safe and helps us get back to normal faster, we’ll do it.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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