‘Why can Applebee’s be open and I can’t?’: Some Frisco bars unhappy with governor’s order to close

interior of bar
The Frisco Bar & Grill had been operating at 50% capacity with social distancing protocols in place before being ordered to close June 26. (Courtesy The Frisco Bar & Grill)

The Frisco Bar & Grill had been operating at 50% capacity with social distancing protocols in place before being ordered to close June 26. (Courtesy The Frisco Bar & Grill)

A little more than a month after reopening its doors on May 22, The Frisco Bar & Grill was among those ordered to close June 26 by executive order of the governor.

Co-owner Tony Spino said the establishment had recently received a shipment of food that cost “thousands of dollars,” and he worried it would now go to waste.

“We're not allowed to operate as a restaurant, even though we can and have been for a long period of time,” Spino said.

With coronavirus cases surging throughout the state, Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order June 26 forced all Texas bars to close by noon that day. The order also requires restaurants to return to a maximum of 50% capacity by 12:01 a.m. June 29.

“At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars,” Abbott said in a news release. “The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health.”

As The Frisco Bar & Grill receives more than 51% of its gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages, it fell under the governor’s order. Frisco establishments such as First Round Draft Bar and Grill, and Cork & Growler also had to close to patrons.

Cork & Growler co-owner Carmelle Martinez said sales at her establishment “went down incredibly” when the state previously ordered it to close.

“As long as the restaurants are going to stay open, especially the restaurants with bars in them, I think that's going to greatly affect our business,” Martinez said.

Abbott’s order states these businesses can offer delivery and take-out, including for alcoholic beverages. Spino called Abbott’s decision “ridiculous.”

“What am I going to do with all these employees that I have that now have to probably just go back on unemployment?” Spino said. “You’re just messing with people's livelihoods. How do you make that decision without giving us the weekend?”

Restaurants are allowed to continue operating at 75% capacity through Sunday night. Kelly’s Craft Tavern in Frisco qualifies as a restaurant under the governor’s order and was allowed to continue serving patrons. General manager Justin Bramblett said the restaurant decided to go back down to the 50% capacity on Friday.

“[It is] not much of a change from 75% to 50%,” Bramblett said. “I just blocked off a couple more spots in the restaurant to cut down to half of capacity.”

Jana Lucas, co-owner Snookered Billards & Bar, also qualified as a restaurant and did not have to close her establishment, but is concerned another shutdown could endanger its future.

“We put so much money into this bar, and we're risking losing it because of the very small percentage of people that are scared of this,” Lucas said. “If you're scared, stay home. Let the rest of us get back to life because our economy is dying. Everybody’s going to be out of business if they continue this.”

Bramblett said he was glad the order did not affect the patio seating at Kelly’s Craft Tavern, as that has been popular with patrons.

“I just hope that this doesn’t scare people off from going out,” he said.

At Nerdvana Frisco, assistant general manager Nicole Mueller said since reopening in early June, the restaurant has not come close to reaching its 50% capacity and has reduced its hours.

Frisco establishments such as Mash’d, The Revel and Applebee’s Grill and Bar also qualified as restaurants under the order and did not have to close.

“Why can Applebee’s be open and I can’t?” Spino from The Frisco Bar & Grill asked.

He estimated bars would be out thousands of dollars this weekend because of the lost business and food that may go unsold.

“The sad thing is that we're a bar that has been following the rules and restrictions, according to the way the governor set forth,” Spino said. “There are lots of bars that have not followed the standards and the restrictions that the governor put in place. Now the places that had been following those rules are being punished because of those who didn’t.”

At Cork & Growler, Martinez said not knowing when her bar will be allowed to reopen is a “scary thing,” especially from a financial standpoint.

“We don't know how long this is going to last,” she said of the shutdown. “It’s our source of income. It's how we feed our family. When you’re a small business owner, it's tough thinking about things like that.”
By William C. Wadsack
William C. Wadsack is the senior reporter for the Plano and Richardson editions of Community Impact Newspaper. He previously served as managing editor of several daily and weekly publications in North Texas and his native state of Louisiana before joining Community Impact Newspaper in 2019.


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