Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s order allowing reopened restaurants to increase capacity to 50% took effect Friday. Vince Young Steakhouse tweeted Tuesday that it was "open in the safest way possible." The downtown Austin restaurant, owned by Laura and Phillip Brown, also used its Twitter feed to air a grievance with Austin Mayor Steve Adler — accompanied by a GIF of cyclist Lance Armstrong making a vulgar gesture.
In a series of tweets, which have since been deleted, the restaurant announced they were open and following safety guidelines and accused Adler of trying to "overstep and keep small businesses hurting."
"No switch has been flipped we just must quit fear mongering. Extending stay at home order when the governor has opened businesses up just confuses the public and keeps folks who want to go out confused," the steakhouse, named after Texas Longhorns football legend Vince Young, wrote.
A subsequent tweet saying "When @MayorAdler tries to override @GregAbott_TX and extend stay at home orders and preventing us from being able to provide our staff and families" was accompanied by a seven-second video of Armstrong making the middle finger gesture and mouthing an expletive. The moving image originated from a recent ESPN documentary about Armstrong.
Adler had not seen the tweet when the American-Statesman contacted him Tuesday afternoon to discuss crowded bars over the Memorial Day weekend. After being told the contents of the tweet, Adler responded with thoughts about the city’s recommended public safety practices meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"Ultimately, the individuals in our community, making individual decisions, collectively making community decisions, will decide whether or not we’re able to reopen the economy without overrunning the hospitals. And either people social distance and wear face coverings, or they won’t," Adler said.
After deleting the tweets Tuesday evening, the steakhouse posted a "Note from the Owner" on Twitter:
"We have deleted this morning’s tweet regarding the stay at home order as the video we used contained offensive language that is not representative of the Vince Young Steakhouse brand. We apologize to Mayor Adler and our guests for any offense caused by an opinion that was posted out of frustration over circumstances in which we all find ourselves. Moving forward, this account will be solely restaurant content, specials, and support for the City of Austin and the Great State of Texas."
The owners of Vince Young Steakhouse did not respond to an email request for comment Tuesday afternoon before the social media posts had been deleted. In 2014, Laura Brown said that Young is solely a "naming partner" in the restaurant.
Adler also told the Statesman on Tuesday that the city is closely monitoring the seven-day rolling average of hospital admissions as a metric for how good of a job is being done to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. He said if the number stays below 20, things are trending in the right direction. On Tuesday night, he tweeted that the most recent seven-day daily average of new hospitalizations was eight.
This is not the first time the steakhouse that opened in 2010 has placed itself publicly at odds with Adler.
In response to the city’s homeless policies, the restaurant posted a tweet on Feb. 12 complaining about a cardboard shelter in the alley behind the restaurant. Another tweet followed on Feb. 16, in response to a tweet from Abbot saying businesses and residents are leaving downtown or avoiding the area because of increases in attacks and feces.
″(Mayor Adler) and the rest of the city council do not care about us," the steakhouse tweeted. "Took a stabbing in our parking lot to get an aide of (Kathie Tovo) to call back. I guess (Tovo) couldn’t find the time herself to call."
Those tweets appear to have been since deleted.
Adler and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt extended social distancing mandates May 8 with new executive orders outlining how the Austin area should reopen its economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. The new local orders include a mandate that people wear face masks, though the city and county have no civil or criminal penalties for violators.
On top of the face mask mandate, restaurant owners opening up dine-in service are encouraged to keep an activity log of all customers and employees who enter their businesses. The orders ask restaurants to get contact information for all customers and to track where they sat while dining.
Restaurants that refuse to keep logs might have their names publicized by Austin Public Health if the health authority determines the business was exposed to the coronavirus, the order states.
"What is most remarkable about these new orders is that there’s not much remarkable about the new orders," Adler said in early May. "These orders are continuations in substance of our past orders. It still maintains the ‘stay home, work safe’ structure that is both in our orders and in the governor’s orders."
Philip Jankowski and Mark Wilson contributed to this report.
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