Many North Texas bar owners and employees say they are more worried than ever after Governor Greg Abbott explained Tuesday what it would take to allow free-standing bars to reopen after being shut down twice amid the health crisis.
It’s been a sobering six months for Tommy’s Oasis in Arlington.
“Very stressful not knowing if we’re going back to work,” said Tommy's Oasis General Manager, Aimee Buchanan.
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Especially worried, Buchanan says, after hearing Gov. Abbott talking about why free-standing bars will remain closed, for now.
“It was after they were opened that we saw an increase in the spread of COVID-19 that led to the necessity of closing them,” said Abbott during a press conference on Tuesday.
“I feel like we’re being singled out,” Buchanan said.
She says they followed every safety recommendation when bars were allowed to partially reopen in June.
“When we were allowed to have people at the bar we did some social distancing,” she said. “TABC [Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission] actually came in and inspected us and said you guys are doing a great job.”
In order to reopen again, Abbott said the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate must be sustained at 10%.
Current statistics show the state currently stands at a nearly 24% positivity rate.
Intoxicated patrons, Abbott says, tend to lose the ‘discipline’ needed to stop the spread of the virus, so extra measures would also be required. “Not walk around, not converse without masks, not go to the bar itself,” he said.
If you’ve been to a bar that serves food during the pandemic, some say you would find there’s at least some truth in what the governor is saying.
“There is,” said Tommy Snyder. “But they’re picking and choosing who can open and who can’t open.”
Snyder co-owns two new businesses in the Fort Worth Stockyards, including Stampede Saloon.
The bar briefly opened for the first time in June before having to close.
“The governor is taking tens of thousands of people across the state of Texas and he’s going to completely ruin them financially,” he said.
Snyder and Buchanan argue many other types of businesses are open, despite not following guidelines like social distancing.
“Everybody side by side and it’s as if there is no COVID regulations,” said Snyder of a business he recently visited.
Notably, some bars have found ways around TABC rules in order to reopen their doors in recent weeks.
Billy Bob’s in the Stockyards is set to reopen Thursday after obtaining permits to operate as a restaurant.
“I can go in and have five shots and five beers and not order food. It’s not a requirement, so what’s the difference,” questions Buchanan.
Snyder is scrambling to get food permits as the bills keep piling up.
“We’re still paying $12,000 a month in leases,” he said. “We have an area at Stampede we can actually use as a kitchen but that’s going to cost another $25,000.”
Buchanan says Tommy’s Oasis has decided not to try to skirt the rules.
“There’s a reason this bar has been around for so long,” she said. “We don’t get into trouble. We follow the rules.”
Buchanan later added it would be ‘dishonest’ for them to apply for a food license right now in addition to their current mixed-beverage license.
‘We are a late-night kind of bar. We sing karaoke and dance the night away. People don’t want heavy meals. They’re here to have fun!’
Both businesses are asking the governor to open the state.
Snyder pointed out he contracted the virus, despite taking safety measures.
“My staying in my house, me wearing a mask and trying to do all the things they said we should do did not prevent me from getting COVID. I ended up with it anyway. I would tell the governor to just open the state back up,” he said.
They insist the will implement all safety measures if they even make it.
“There may not be a Tommy’s by the time we’re done here,” Buchanan said.