Fort Worth

Bars Protest Governor's Order to Close With ‘Freedom Fest'

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The Rail Club Live in Fort Worth opened its doors Saturday for the first time since the Fourth of July despite statewide orders that bars remain closed due to the spread COVID-19.

It’s the second time co-owner and operator Chris Polone has invited people in the since the mandate went into effect.

The first came just days after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced businesses whose sales were 51% or more alcohol were to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Though Polone said he wasn’t serving alcohol at the time, TABC suspended his liquor license.

Less than a month later, he’s reopening again.

He said he still won’t serve, but some of the 800-plus bars around the state joining him might.

"We're in a position to where we're starving ourselves out, so we don't have a choice but to stand up,” Polone said.

Polone’s calling the protest “Freedom Fest.”

"From the outside looking in by reading the headlines, it just looks like we're a bunch of ticked off bar owners. Don't get me wrong. We are ticked off bar owners. But that's not what we're trying to show," he said. "We're trying to show that we can open up safely, and what Greg Abbott said about us being the cause of the spread and the spike of COVID-19 is completely not true."

He said each establishment participating is expected to follow uniform safety procedures including operating at 25% capacity, checking temperatures at the door and requiring patrons to remain at their tables.

He said the requirements go above and beyond what’s being required by both federal and state agencies for restaurants.

Polone, like a lot of other bar owners, argues those whose sales are majority alcohol are being unfairly targeted.

TABC said they’re aware of the event and issued a statement.

“Agents will be conducting inspections throughout the weekend to ensure businesses are complying with the governor's executive orders.”

While promoting “Freedom Fest,” Polone said he received death threats. But as a bar owner, he said he has little left to lose.

"I went all-in on this. This was my dream. This is my business. Yes, to answer your question. It's 100% worth it,” he said.

To date, he estimates he’s lost between $70,000 and $80,000 in business since March. He expects that number to climb into the hundreds of thousands of dollars if forced closures drag on.

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