Fort Worth

More of Texas is Reopening, Except Bars, Frustrated Owners React

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With coronavirus cases trending in the right direction in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott is ordering additional re-openings across the state.

But there’s one noticeable exception: bars.

Abbott said Thursday bars are still too much of a risk to spread the virus and will remain closed for now.

“Because bars are nationally recognized as COVID-spreading locations they are still unable to open at this time,” said Abbott during a press conference. “However, it is important for them [owners] to know we are focused on finding ways to get them open.”

Frustrated bar owners are sounding off.

“He proves without a shadow of a doubt the corruption we’ve been talking about this entire time,” said Chris Polone. “I’m not shocked but I’m extremely upset about it that he can continue this farce.”

Polone owns the Rail Club Live in Fort Worth where he continues to defy orders to remain closed, despite the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspending his liquor license.

He reopened on August 29.

“We didn’t have a choice. We had $24 in our bank account,” he said. “Our only crime is that we opened our business to save it. That’s it. Because the government is not doing anything to save it.”

From Fort Worth, to Arlington. Business owners whose alcohol sales surpass 51% say they are disappointed with today’s announcement.

“I was kind of in shock because we were expecting at least an answer to when we could open,” said Joey Johnson who owns Tommy’s Oasis in Arlington. “We were all expecting to hear something positive today especially with all the low positivity rates that he [governor] had talked about in the past that we needed to reach and apparently it’s not low enough.”

Johnson and other bar owners argue whether restaurants that sell alcohol are any safer.

“You can go to their bar area. You don’t even have to order food so what’s the difference to going there or going to my place,” he said.

The owner of Dot’s Hop House in Deep Ellum previously released an open letter to the governor asking for relief for shuttered bars, like a refund on mixed beverage taxes they pay.

Today, owner Jeff Brightwell told NBC 5: “It’s laughable. Everything is open. Schools, restaurants at 75%, etc.  But bars still no good unless you pay the government $776 to be declared a ‘restaurant.’”

The governor went on to say: “We need to see COVID numbers continue to be contained, and we need to work with the bars on effective strategies that will ensure that when they do open, the possibility of spread of COVID is contained.”

Abbott said some bars and associations have offered ideas and the state will continue to work with them on the process.

Asked what would help him keep his doors open in the long-run, Johnson said “maybe a reduction in our licensing. Just any help that [Abbott] would give would be great.”

Polone said not only has the state suspended his liquor license, but his bank account has also been frozen, his unemployment is being investigated and officials are making constant visits to the bar.

Polone is now planning another virtual rally on September 26 to expose what he calls ‘corruption.’

“We’re going to go step by step and all the corruption and all the crazy things that have been happening to all of us,” he said. “The entire goal is to combine all of our reaches together to get millions and millions of views so we can take this to Greg Abbott’s daddy: Donald Trump.”

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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