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Of Course Tilman Fertitta Thinks Reopening Restaurants Right Now Is a Good Idea

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The billionaire restaurateur says that putting his employees back to work is the “greatest thing in the world”

Haute Living And Louis XIII celebrate Tilman Fertitta Cover And Book Release
Tilman Fertitta
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Haute Living

Houston restaurateur Tilman Fertitta praised Texas governor Greg Abbott’s decision to reopen many of the state’s businesses, including restaurants, on May 1.

In an interview with KPRC Houston, Fertitta called Abbott’s executive order that will allow restaurants to open their dining rooms at 25% capacity a “wise decision.” Fertitta was a member of the Governor’s Strike Force’s Special Advisory Council, which provided “advice and counsel” to the governor as he developed plans to reopen businesses, alongside other prominent Texas business figures like Michael Dell and Houston’s own Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale.

Following Abbott’s order, Fertitta plans to open his Houston restaurants, including Willie G’s Seafood and Mastro’s Steakhouse, at 25 percent capacity on Friday. “What I’m most happy about is putting employees back to work!” Fertitta told KPRC. “That’s the greatest thing in the world.” His company’s entertainment venues, including Galveston’s Pleasure Pier and the Kemah Boardwalk, will remain closed.

Reopening restaurants and other businesses will, of course, be financially advantageous for Fertitta, who said in an interview earlier this month that his company is burning $2 million in cash daily while his establishments are closed. Even more shockingly, Fertitta made headlines when he offered lenders a sky-high 15% interest rate on a $250 million “lifeline” loan to keep his businesses afloat during the crisis.

Fertitta’s been a controversial figure since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The restaurateur and Houston Rockets owner’s hospitality company sparked outrage when employees at his his glitzy Houston hotel the Post Oak were told that they would no longer be able to take paid time off back in March, before ultimately reversing that decision and firing the manager who issued that directive. Fertitta also furloughed more than 40,000 hospitality workers across the country, calling it a “favor” to his employees who have been trying to stay afloat without paychecks.

Eater has reached out to a rep for Fertitta for more details on how many Houston-based employees will return to work on Friday. Stay tuned for an update.

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