DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — Wednesday was the first evening that certain bars in Texas have been allowed to reopen since July. Reopening can occur at 50 percent capacity only if the county judge gives the green light.
Meanwhile, other parts of the country are reinstating new restrictions and business owners are being forced to do things they’ve never done to stay afloat.
In Texas, the beverage and nightlife industry is on the rocks after being shut down five out of the last six months.
“As horrible and as unexpected of an experience in business as I think anyone could have expected,” said Aaron Saginaw, owner of the Time Out Tavern in Dallas.
Following quarantine, Governor Greg Abbott specifically closed down bars a second time in July over COVID-19 concerns. He announced last week that they could begin operating at half capacity if county judges allowed.
On day one, only 85 of the state’s 254 counties were moving forward. Dallas is still a no go. Saginaw’s dive bar specializes in classic drinks, bar game and now food.
“Pretzels, peanuts, chips, crackers, prepackaged that we require to be ordered with every drink,” he said.
Prior to the pandemic, food wasn’t on the menu, but because being a food retailer with 51% of food sales allowed him to reopen sooner.
He got creative to keep his business alive. But states like New Mexico are reinstating COVID restrictions starting Friday, forcing food and drink establishments to close at 10 p.m. The governor’s spokesman, Tripp Stelnicki, citing a spike in hospitalizations.
“Places where alcohol is involved—particularly in bars in other states—become real hot spots because people have less inhibition after a few drinks,” said Stelnicki.
Back in Dallas, Saginaw is one of the countless bar owners asking not to be singled out based on behavioral assumptions. He says he wants to be given a fair shot at success like everyone else, especially restaurants.
“I don’t think the virus is smart enough to know ‘Oh, well you have a burger in front of you with your beer, instead of just a beer…So you’re safe from me.’ It makes no sense. And, again, they’re going off the theory of what happens in bars versus how we could pivot if given the opportunity.”
More than 30 states are currently allowing alcoholic beverages to go, including Texas, but only if you offer to-go food. Governor Abbott says he supports making that permanent. Right now, only Iowa and Ohio have made that a permanent option