Omicron not slowing most hotels, restaurants — yet

San Antonio’s hotels, restaurants and bars are busy this week with visitors and holiday revelers, but their owners are keeping a close eye on the city’s growing number of COVID-19 cases and the threat posed by the omicron variable.

Frank Bakoszowski, one of the owners of the boutique at The Pearl, said the restaurant has not seen a decline in business yet because of the new breed.

“We look over our shoulder all the time, of course. I think it’s just part of doing business now,” Pakuszewski said.

Botika managers encouraged employees to receive a vaccination and to stay home if they feel sick.

A waiter tends to tables as visitors roam and dine along RiverWalk on Wednesday, December 22, 2021. An Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Bexar County as people begin to travel and celebrate the Christmas holidays.

A waiter tends to tables as visitors roam and dine along RiverWalk on Wednesday, December 22, 2021. An Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Bexar County as people begin to travel and celebrate the Christmas holidays.

Ken Man Hui, San Antonio Express News team/staff photographer

“All we can do is encourage our employees to make the right decision for them,” he said.

Foot traffic has not slowed at La Familia Cortez restaurants, COO Pete Cortez said, and the company continues to take safety precautions as well.

About 80 percent of its workers have been fully vaccinated, Cortez said, and a “healthy percentage” of the rest have been partially vaccinated. They wear face masks and gloves, sanitize tables, and serve silverware with individual sleeves.

“We’re definitely worried,” he said.

Business at Botika and La Familia restaurants has not fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels. There are fewer Christmas parties and large gatherings than during the holiday season two years ago, Bakoszewski said.

Visitors roam and dine along RiverWalk on Wednesday, December 22, 2021. An omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Bexar County as people begin to travel and celebrate the Christmas holidays.

Visitors roam and dine along RiverWalk on Wednesday, December 22, 2021. An omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected in Bexar County as people begin to travel and celebrate the Christmas holidays.

Ken Man Hui, San Antonio Express News team/staff photographer

Cortez said Cortez’s family restaurants La Margarita and Pico de Gallo are closed two days during the week, and Mi Tierra is no longer operating 24 hours a day, in part because office and conference staff are no longer en masse.

“We continue to see leisure travel, especially the driving market,” he said. “We don’t necessarily see a great deal of commercial traffic.”

Leisure visitors are booking rooms, but business from conferences and events is getting behind, said Stacey Seaborn, director of sales and marketing for the downtown Valencia.

And now the groups are starting to cancel due to concerns about omicron.

hit the road

More than 8.8 million Texans will travel 50 miles or more from their homes between December 23 and January 2, up 32 percent from last year but 8 percent less than in 2019, according to the AAA.

The majority – 8.3 million – will drive to their destinations. AAA said gas demand rose last week but concerns about Omicron caused volatility in the crude oil market and lower pump prices.

“As millions of Texans plan to hit the road to celebrate the end of the year, they are welcomed by the cheapest average price of gas in the country,” said AAA Texas spokesperson Daniel Armbruster. “Prices may continue to fall as the market continues to assess the potential recent economic impact of the omicron variable.”

Visitors on a river cruise cruise to dine with patrons along the RiverWalk on Wednesday, December 22, 2021.

Visitors on a river cruise cruise to dine with patrons along the RiverWalk on Wednesday, December 22, 2021.

Ken Man Hui, San Antonio Express News team/staff photographer

On Tuesday, the city recorded 458 new cases of the virus, the highest daily total since early October. The first two cases of the omicron variant were detected in Bexar County in mid-December.

With omicron spreading nationwide, local health officials are urging people to fully vaccinate, wear a mask while traveling and get tested before attending large gatherings.

“Although we have documented only five cases of omicron so far, we estimate that the omicron variant will be dominant here as well,” said Dr. Anita Kurian, assistant director of health at Metro Health who oversees the department’s infectious diseases. “It is highly transferable. It seems to double every two days.”

Pia Ornius, chief economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said the coronavirus pandemic has hampered demand in industries like hospitality, leaving companies in multiple sectors struggling to attract and keep workers.

With the delta variable, companies have seen a lot of turnover in an already tight job market as employees change jobs, seek better salaries or choose to stay home due to concerns about their health.

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