Texas Bars Propose Reopening Plan, Look Toward ‘Soft Opening'

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It has been more than 50 days since Texas bars and nightclubs have been closed due to restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 infections.

“They’ve lost about 75,000 employees overnight,” Texas Restaurant Association President Emily Williams Knight said. “We think it is about $600 million so far in revenue and just to put it into terms of the state, it’s about $42 million in revenue in mixed beverage tax that is no longer going to the state.”

Williams Knight and the Texas Restaurant Association have been working with a group of bar owners to draft a plan to present to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office detailing a safe reopening of bars and nightclubs.

“We reached out initially to see if we could help them and help them organize and come up with a plan that would have Gov. Abbott's medical team and his team of experts really feel comfortable reopening bars,” Knight said.

The group came up with the Texas Bar Promise and submitted it to Abbott’s office over the weekend.

“It is a commitment between bar owners, operators and employees and the customers they serve to safely and successfully reopen Texas bars,” Knight said.

The Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance (TBNA) presented a 10-point plan to Abbott’s office and hopes to hold a ‘soft opening’ Friday, May 15.

“TBNA is encouraging its members to conduct a soft reopening this coming Friday, May 15th from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. The soft reopening will give businesses and employees an opportunity to put in to practice those procedures in our 10 Part Plan,” TBNA Executive Director, Quincy Barnes said in a press release. “This opening will NOT include patrons or the general public, but businesses will remove all boards from windows, turn on lights and music and have employees on-staff to enjoy a DJ or Live Music.”

“They want to be open, they want to bring customers back. They are committed to safety and they are just waiting for that green light,” Knight said.

The ‘soft opening’ would be used to prepare for a possible green light to open.

“Let’s start that this week so when we do open at a limited capacity these bars are ready to go.,” Knight said.

Listed below are the TBNA Guidelines to Safe Reopening of 51% Alcohol Licenses as provided to Gov. Abbott by TBNA President Michael Klein:

  1. 51% of licenses will maintain occupancy in accordance with CDC recommendations and in collaboration with the state, aligning with full-service restaurants.
  2. 51% of licenses will install tables and chairs to eliminate open areas and encourage patrons to sit instead of stand to maintain social distancing.
  3. 51% of licenses will hire additional door staff to ensure that social distancing guidelines are met and that groups of patrons do not form. This will also provide additional jobs for Texans.
  4. 51% of licenses will adhere to the Texas Restaurant Promise adopted in the Phase I opening of restaurants.
  5. Coordination with local city governments to maintain the suspension of road closures in entertainment districts.
  6. Adoption of single-use plastic cups and paper plates.
  7. Mandatory and supervised use of hand sanitizer before entry and re-entry.
  8. Encourage all staff to retake TABC certification class online.
  9. All staff must wear masks during operating hours and encourage patrons to wear masks.
  10. Enforcement: TABC has legal authority to immediately suspend any license that poses an immediate threat or danger to public safety for 90 days.
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