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Restaurants hope for boost on Cinco de Mayo after struggles during pandemic

Restaurants are trying to draw in customers by offering food and drink specials after last year’s fiesta was limited to takeout only because of COVID-19.

HOUSTON — The party is just getting started for businesses like the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation as happy hour gets underway.

Businesses have struggled over the last year, but holidays like Cinco de Mayo drive people in who want to celebrate.

Mexican food and margaritas are on the menu tonight as people show up to take part in Cinco de Mayo festivities.

“Cinco de Mayo is one of the biggest days for us here at Ninfa’s. We’re very proud to celebrate the Mexican culture," said Ana Fernandez, director of health and safety of Ninfa’s and Legacy Restaurants.

Restaurants are trying to draw in customers by offering food and drink specials after last year’s fiesta was limited to takeout only because of COVID-19.

They’ve has put a lot of measures in place to ensure the safety of guests and employees.

“We were able to get all of our employees vaccinated within two drives,” Fernandez said.

In addition, at Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen owner Sylvia Casares expects people to drop in all day.

Casares said business dropped by more than 30 percent at the peak of the pandemic.

“Sylvia’s in the Energy Corridor. Of course, we did experience a downturn in business, because we are surrounded by companies that started working from home,” Casares said.

She said it could have been worse.

“We have a very loyal following of customers that just kept coming and coming and doing takeout and then when we partially opened with the social distancing they came and so it’s been great,” Casares said.

However, with Cinco de Mayo off to a great start, both Sylvia’s and Ninfa’s believe it’s a good sign of things to come.

“In the past six months, we’ve seen constant growth, and we’ve seen constantly our customers coming back," Fernandez said.

While business is extra good on Cinco de Mayo, there’s more than $28 billion up for grabs to help struggling restaurants, bars, food trucks and other food and drink businesses under the American Rescue Plan. Eligible businesses are encouraged to apply.