HOUSTON - On the edge of Downtown Houston, an eerie stillness has settled on the normally bustling acreage around the massive building known as the George R. Brown.
The gears of a once cranking convention business have been ground to a halt by the pandemic.
In fact, only one large gathering this Summer remains un-canceled – the Texas Republican Party’s Convention, set to host 7,000 visitors beginning July 14th.
For the well regarded The Grove Restaurant, suffering through the leanest of seasons, preparations for the potential influx of patrons are solidly in place
“The Grove is ready to receive any number of people that may be able to come here, while still maintain a social responsibility to the public and following the mandates from the Governor’s office,” said Jody Fiess, Manager of The Grove adding, ”You know we want to capture as much business as we can.”
But at the Wednesday gathering of Houston’s City Council – members, citing infection risk, loudly voiced disapproval of the GOP gathering.
“We have to put people first right now and the safety of our workers and our residents, but also the potential for the virus to spread even further across the state because of everyone gathering here like this,” said Abby Kamin, Chairperson of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee of Houston City Council.
While Mayor Sylvester Turner has called for a “virtual” convention, he has yet to order the cancellation of the in-person event. Instead, he fired a shot aimed squarely at the state capitol.
“The focus should not be on me. The focus should be on the Governor and others who stripped the City of Houston and others of its authority,” said Turner.
Meantime, FOX 26 has learned the State Republican Party Executive Committee will meet Thursday to decide whether to go virtual or conduct the convention as planned.
“The Republican Party of Texas has called a meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee - the governing body of the State Party - to evaluate the status of holding the Republican Party of Texas State Convention in person based on feedback from delegates across the state. The meeting is being held to ensure there is a back-up plan for an online convention in place if a government order goes into effect before the State Convention meets or if delegates through their SREC members decide to move the convention online,” said James Dickey, Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas.
Adding his voice to the warning issued by the Texas Medical Association, Dr. Don Walter President of the Harris County Medical Society is calling the GOP plan to meet in person “a bad idea”.