NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order shutting down bars, limiting restaurant capacity and large gatherings, and also ordering all tube and rafting businesses to close.
What You Need To Know
- Tubing had to halt in March, reopened in May
- Abbott ordered tubing businesses to close again
- Many employees affected
Coley Reno is an economics teacher at New Braunfels High School, but since 2002 he’s owned Texas Tubes on the Comal River in New Braunfels, Texas.
“I love the water. I love the sun, and I like to be outdoors so you know, it's a good summer gig for a school teacher," said Reno.
From mid-March to the beginning of May, Texas Tubes was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After reopening, concerns rose as photos circulated showing crowds of people floating the river, as Texas started to see a massive spike in COVID-19 cases.
When Abbott issued his executive order Friday forcing all tubing and rafting businesses to close, Reno was disappointed to have to shut down once again.
“It was really busy. This was the only thing people had to do you know, I mean you can't really get on a lake if you don't have a boat. You know, this is where people were coming. Weekdays, it was very, very, very possible to social distance. You know, we were busy but it was very, very possible to do that," said Reno, who also said not all customers had chosen to actually social distance on the river in recent weeks.
With Texas Tubes closed again, now Coley says he’s most concerned about his 31 employees who are now out of work.
“I’ve got a lot of college kids. I got some high school kids. I've got some older guys. I've got two guys that I employ that are full time drivers. This is how they feed their family. And, you know, they're nervous about it. It's a tough shake," said Reno.
Being forced to close also means a big financial hit to his business.
“Our business is seasonal, you know. We don't have 12 months to make money," said Reno. "We got two and a half months and July is our meat month. That's where we make our money. That's where we get to the next year. July is probably 50 percent of our yearly business. So it's a huge hit financially, too.”
The governor’s executive order also didn’t specify when tubing and rafting businesses can reopen.
“I just think that the numbers have to go down. It's possible it could be for the summer, [or] it could be for two weeks, you know, we just really don't know," said Reno.
Reno said he had been working with the city of New Braunfels on a plan to help keep tubers socially distanced on the river, and he’s upset they won’t have a chance to implement it.
“We had spent probably 50 hours this week with the City of New Braunfels coming up with a plan to social distance on the weekends," said Reno. "Each outfitter was going to be given a certain number of city wristbands, 500 for each out there, to put into the river and once those were gone you were done for the day. And so we had a good comprehensive plan, I think we were setting up for it and then the bombshell dropped this morning."
Most of all, he’s concerned that as we go further along in this Texas summer heat, people won’t have a way to cool off and enjoy the outdoors.
“I just think that being out in this open air is the best thing you can do, and I think it's a travesty for people that aren't going to be able to get out and get some sunshine. It's magical, water's magical, and it's something that's a need at this time period for everyone around," said Reno.