Central Texas restaurants prepare to expand capacity


WACO, Texas – The “Open” sign at Portofino’s Italian Restaurant downtown has been flickering since the pandemic hit in the spring – but just how open the restaurant is has varied in recent months. 

Restaurant managers like Mark Moore say he and his staff have been waiting on the announcement to expand capacity for quite some time.

“75 percent allows us to have a busy Friday night. Fridays and Saturdays, most restaurants, that’s your busiest time. And if you can only do 50 percent, you’re cutting around half your business,” said Mark Moore, the manager at Portofino’s Italian restaurant.  

He says managing a business cut off from 50 percent of its opportunities for profit has been a costly challenge.

“It cost us some employees that had to be laid off. It costs money for the company, especially some of the employees and some that are still on.”

It costs some more than others. 

It cost Bruce Beeson, the owner of Rockin Rolls, months of delays in opening his own food spot at the urban eatery downtown. 

“We signed a lease a week before COVID hit, so that next week we had to halt all of our operations,” said Beeson.

The announcement made Friday comes just in time to give Beeson and his staff the opportunity to open in the way they originally envisioned. 

“We’re excited because we really want to have a big grand opening and have a live music thing set up over here. So being able to get more people over here will be a big thing for us,” Beeson said.

Businesses owners say though the expansion is exciting, there is a lingering sense of concern for the future.

“I’m very hopeful that we can open up more and more safely. I’m hoping we don’t have any more setbacks that can cause us to go longer,” Moore said.

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