McKinney bar owner calls governor's latest order on restrictions unfair

guy playing bagpipes outside bar
The Celt Irish Pub in McKinney had to close at noon June 26 to comply with new executive orders from the state concerning the new coronavirus. (Miranda Jaimes/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Celt Irish Pub in McKinney had to close at noon June 26 to comply with new executive orders from the state concerning the new coronavirus. (Miranda Jaimes/Community Impact Newspaper)

The governor’s June 26 order to close all bars and limit the capacity at restaurants drew an immediate reaction from some in McKinney.

“Today, the governor shut down bars. Tomorrow, what if it's restaurants again?” McKinney Mayor George Fuller said. “Why wouldn't we all want to do everything we possibly can to preserve the health and well-being of people and the health and well-being of businesses?”

Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order requires the closure of all bars in the state by noon June 26, and restaurant capacity is once again limited to 50% beginning at 12:01 a.m. June 29. The order was made to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, Abbott said.

The city of McKinney is required to follow these executive orders, Fuller said. It can also impose stricter restrictions, if it deems them necessary, he said. The city could follow in the steps of Dallas and Tarrant counties and mandate the public wear masks in businesses if coronavirus numbers do not improve, he said.

While Fuller noted that McKinney does not have a large number of bars, even having one business close is “too many.” He encouraged the public to help slow the spread of the virus and to wear their masks.

“I don’t want to have more businesses closed down,” he said.

Some establishments, such as The Celt Irish Pub in downtown McKinney, were immediately affected by Abbott’s order. Considered a bar because alcohol sales are the bulk of its revenue, among other factors, the business confirmed it was closing.

“There's an easy scapegoat to go after, and it's the bars and the restaurants,” said Stan Penn, owner of The Celt. “And it's just not fair.”

Penn compared the experience to “having the rug yanked out” from underneath them in spite of doing everything they can to limit occupancy and provide sanitation measures. While the business can still serve food in a to-go capacity, Penn said it was a “no-win situation” for him.

“We can do food, but he’s [Abbott] not letting bars like this do to-go alcohol,” Penn said. “And even if we could, it's just a big money loser to pay staff and kitchen and everything else.”

Estimates from the Texas Restaurant Association indicate about 700,000 restaurant industry jobs have been lost since mid-March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Celt closed in March during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and hosted a “Save Our Square” rally in April to show support for businesses in downtown McKinney. The business re-opened in May for dine-in service.

“We’re going to make it. It’s going to be fine,” Penn said. “It’s just disruptive, and again, it’s not fair.”

Other McKinney businesses, such as Arcade 92, are not closing, but instead are fielding phone calls and working to reassure people that the business will remain open.

“We’re a restaurant that serves alcohol, but a lot of times people will think we’re a bar,” owner Michael Lepsch said. “So I have no doubt that we're going to see a significant drop in customers, just based on assumptions.”

The business is relatively unaffected by Abbott’s executive order, as it was already operating at only 50% capacity.

"Thankfully, we kind of fit into an odd box where we as a restaurant can have 75% occupancy, but as an arcade, we can only have 50% occupancy,” Lepsch said. “So we’ve been playing it safe and only doing 50%.”

Restaurants such as Guitars and Growlers and The Yard also had not escalated their services to 75% capacity, so they will not have to make any adjustments under the new order either, officials said.

Foxii’s Restaurant and Grill and Delaney’s Irish Pub & Scratch Kitchen are both considered restaurants in McKinney and will remain open. To comply with Abbott’s orders, Foxii’s will have to space out its tables a little more, said one of the restaurant’s owners, Diego Ruiz. Delaney’s is a larger restaurant, so providing plenty of space at 50% is not an issue there either, manager Barbara Kemp said.

“We just want to make sure people still feel comfortable enough to come in,” she said. “We are making sure we have hand sanitizer out. ... We’re trying to make sure we follow proper protocol so that way we can continue to stay open.”
By Miranda Jaimes
Miranda has been in the North Texas area since she graduated from Oklahoma Christian University in 2014. She reported and did design for a daily newspaper in Grayson County before she transitioned to a managing editor role for three weekly newspapers in Collin County. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 covering Tarrant County news, and is now back in Collin County as the editor of the Frisco and McKinney editions.


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