Restaurant Owners Closed by Executive Order Urge Gov. Abbott to Clarify Mandate

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Bars in Texas are closed because of Texas Governor Greg Abbott's executive order.

But the mandate may have inadvertently shut down many restaurants, too.

Between drive-in concerts, spaced-out seating and a patio added in the parking lot, Lava Cantina in The Colony is getting creative to survive the pandemic.

“Going above and beyond for rules and regulations as a restaurant,” said co-founder Ian Vaughn.

Despite having a stage and bars, Vaughn said he operates as a restaurant.

He said he was stunned when two TABC investigators showed up last week with a warning.

“We were told that we had 45 minutes to clear the premises and get everybody cashed out or we would risk losing our alcohol license,” Vaughn explained.

Vaughn said he was told his restaurant is considered a bar under Governor Abbott's executive order because his alcohol sales make up more than 51% of his total sales.

The Texas Restaurant Association said about 1,500 restaurants statewide have closed for the same reason. putting an estimated 35,000 employees out of work.

Vaughn said he is a member of the TRA's Task Force Committee.

“Unfortunately, that is an incorrect assumption to say that an establishment that serves more than 51% of liquor is the only class of what makes a bar vs a restaurant. It’s just not accurate,” Vaughn said.

With doors closed indefinitely, Vaughn said he’s already canceled three major shows and will likely have to cancel more this weekend.

He hopes enough people sign a petition to get Governor Abbott’s attention to redefine what a restaurant really is.

“Hopefully we can make this change and get all these people back to work,” Vaughn said.

As of Monday night, Governor Abbott's office had not returned NBC 5's request for comment.

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