Editor's note: As the year comes to a close, we look back at the 10 most-read restaurant and bar stories of 2020. It's a list that demonstrates the unprecedented challenges and utter devastation the dining industry faced due to the coronavirus pandemic. Iconic Dallas restaurants sadly closed, bars reconfigured business models, and readers tried to keep up with the fast-moving news of it all — especially early on in the pandemic. These are the dining stories that Dallasites read most, all from CultureMap dining editor Teresa Gubbins.
1. Dallas' Gas Monkey Live fronted by Fast N' Loud's Richard Rawlings closes. The live music spot Gas Monkey Live in Northwest Dallas confirmed in May it was closing, but the live music — and scheduled shows — would live on. The venue, which initially closed in late March due to COVID-19, would merge with its nearby sibling Gas Monkey Bar N' Grill, personnel said then. It's not open now. A December 9 message on Gas Monkey's website says it is "hibernating for the winter."
2. North Dallas steakhouse gets locked out and relocates to Frisco. The Dallas location of III Forks Steakhouse closed September 9 after being locked out by the landlord, but set up shop in a sister restaurant in Frisco. Located at 17776 N. Dallas Pkwy., the steakhouse shut down after nearly 23 years at that location, citing the impact of COVID-19 as a cause. It relocated to 1303 Legacy Dr., taking over the space occupied by its sibling steakhouse, Silver Fox.
3. Texas governor finally issues statewide shutdown of restaurants and bars. After avoiding the inevitable for more than a week into Texas' early outbreak of coronavirus, Gov. Greg Abbott on March 19 finally shut down dining in restaurants and bars across the state. Restaurants could still do takeout and delivery, and, notably, Abbott also allowed them to sell beer, wine, and mixed drinks to-go. They reopened later in spring, but limits on crowd capacities and other strict COVID-19 protocols (see No. 6, below) have continued throughout the year.
4. Wolfgang Puck restaurant at Dallas' Reunion Tower gone for good. In what was easily one of the most high-profile concepts to be felled by the coronavirus, the downtown Dallas restaurant from celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck closed in the spring. Five Sixty By Wolfgang Puck, the upscale Asian restaurant that sat atop Reunion Tower, announced in late April it was closing not just for the duration of the pandemic, but permanently. It had opened in early 2009 in the city's most distinctive dining room, inside the landmark tower encased in flickering lights.
5. Magical iconic subterranean restaurant in downtown Dallas closes after 36 years. One of Dallas' oldest and most iconic restaurants became another coronavirus fatality: Dakota's Steakhouse, the downtown seafood and steakhouse hidden in a cool subterranean space, officially closed its doors in May. Established in 1984, Dakota's had been open for 36 years — a longevity surpassed by few other restaurants. And with its below-ground location, it had one of the most distinctive and romantic settings in the city.
6. Master list of Dallas restaurants opening May 1 for dine-in service. Good idea or bad, dozens of restaurants around Dallas made plans to reopen for dine-in service on May 1. In the face of the largest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases in Dallas County (at the time), the state of Texas gave permission to restaurants, movie theaters, and malls to reopen, as long as they limited occupancy to 25 percent. Restaurants had to follow a set of regulations that included no parties larger than six, seating at least six feet apart, no valet parking, no salt shakers, contactless payment, and more.
7. Master list of every Dallas restaurant and bar that closed in 2020. It's a gloomy CultureMap tradition to compile an annual list of restaurant closures, although it's usually framed as more as an homage to what came and went. But the 2020 version was more brutal than usual, since so many restaurants and bars closed due to COVID-19. Here was that end-of-year list, published on December 28.
8. Texas restaurants and small businesses get the shaft on COVID-19 loans. In April, a federal aid package for restaurants and other small businesses ran out of money — but not before some big businesses got cut checks, while small businesses got cut out entirely. Part of the CARES Act stimulus program, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was a $350 billion package designed to help companies with 500 employees or fewer. But, according to the Texas Restaurant Association, hundreds of small operators across Texas not only did not get loans, they were not even able to get a response.
9. Coronavirus hits employees at 2 high-profile Dallas food & beverage spots. In mid-March, two early cases of coronavirus surfaced at a prominent Dallas restaurant and an upscale grocery. An employee at a Dallas location of Central Market tested positive for the virus, as did a server at Town Hearth, the Design District restaurant owned by chef Nick Badovinus. The supermarket reiterated its commitment to sanitizing and social distancing, while the restaurant contacted those who might have come into contact with the server and reported that she was recovering.
10. Colleyville defies state orders and reopens restaurants and churches. Defying a lockdown across Texas as well as the most basic common sense, the town of Colleyville in April allowed churches, restaurants, and other businesses to reopen with certain limitations, despite an unresolved ending to the coronavirus pandemic. Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton issued a proclamation reopening the city on April 20, three days after Gov. Greg Abbott had announced plans to reopen Texas — in stages.