On Tuesday morning, Galveston officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for the island as Hurricane Laura bears down on the Gulf Coast.
Many establishments, like popular spots Mosquito Cafe and Huli Huli Hut, announced plans to close their doors this week to prepare for the storm’s impending arrival. Beloved caffeine destination MOD Coffeehouse also plans to close, at least through Wednesday, depending on what happens after Laura makes landfall. The same goes for Gypsy Joynt, which has continued to operate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the mandatory evacuation order issued by Galveston mayor pro tem Craig Brown, all Galveston restaurants are expected to leave the island by noon on Tuesday, when city services like trash pickup will be suspended.
“There is still considerable uncertainty as to where Tropical Storm Laura will make landfall. We’re sure hoping for the best, but we’d rather not chance it,” a post to MOD Coffeehouse’s Facebook page reads. “Thank you for your support of our people are our priority, families first, community coffeehouse.”
Over at the Spot, a massive bar-restaurant that’s typically bustling with customers this time of year, owner Dennis Byrd is opening up his parking garage for people whose cars may be at risk of flooding. “If you live in a low lying area and need a place to safely park your vehicle, you are welcome to park it in our parking garage,” Byrd wrote in a Facebook post. The 228 parking spaces in Byrd’s garage will be open to those in need on a first come, first serve basis.
“The Spot has always been known as the last place to close and the first place to open,” Byrd told Eater. On Tuesday morning, he was working to put his business’s hurricane plan into place — removing items like umbrellas that might become wind-born, getting plywood out of storage to cover the windows, and cautiously watching the weather. He was still planning to open the restaurant at 11 a.m.
Byrd said that he took Hurricane Ike, in 2008, as a challenge to invest more into the island, undertaking a major renovation of The Spot and adding three new bars over the following three years to the bustling beachfront complex. As soon as the storm passed, he said, locals were begging him to reopen. Volunteers helped him take the boards off the windows, man the bar, and work the kitchen, with a line of patrons out the door, he said.
“It was all about providing a sense of normalcy,” he said.
In 2015, his company bought a hotel further down the seawall, and last year, he invested in a brand new Holiday Inn next to The Spot. He’s offering free hotel rooms to Spot employees who want to stay on the island and work until The Spot is forced to close. When asked how the island’s mandatory evacuation order would affect his decision to stay open this week, Byrd quipped “Ask me at 1 p.m.”
The impending storm is yet another stroke of misfortune for Galveston restaurants, which have seen summer vacation crowds decline dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Laura’s arrival also comes just weeks before the Labor Day holiday, when crowds of people from Houston and beyond would have undoubtedly poured into the city for a long weekend off.
According to Space City Weather, Hurricane Laura is currently in the Gulf of Mexico and strengthening. The storm is expected to make landfall late Wednesday night.