Cypress bar owners face uncertain future following second mandated closure

A new shutdown order for bars across the state of Texas has some bar owners in northwest Houston worried about the future.

After initially allowing bars to reopen at 25% capacity in late May, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reversed course as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations hit record highs across the state, announcing with a June 26 executive order that bars would once again be required to shut down.

The order—which specifically targets entities that make more than 51% of their revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages—quickly netted criticism from those within the industry, including a lawsuit filed against Abbott by 30 bar owners.

Karen Babineaux, who co-owns The Hidden Cellar Wine Bar on House & Hahl Road in Cypress with her business partner Lisa Sprague, said she understands the reasoning behind Abbott's order but thinks it should be refined to take into account that some businesses are more likely to spread the coronavirus than others.

"It was hard for us to understand that we were being blamed for the rise of the COVID-19 virus when the strip clubs are still open," Babineaux said in a July 2 phone interview. "I think that [Abbott] definitely had some fair concerns with the night clubs and the dance clubs that house 500 people or more, but small mom and pop venues such as ourselves that don’t even serve hard liquor—there needs to be maybe a subcategory."


Babineaux's thoughts echoed those of other north Houston area bar owners, who have argued that, instead of targeting all venues that exceed the 51% threshold, officials should instead be cracking down on places that do not follow social distancing guidelines. Meanwhile, a separate movement has launched calling on Abbott to reopen winery tasting rooms and brewery taprooms, with proponents making similar arguments.

Prior to the second shutdown, Babineaux said her venue had been rearranged to allow for social distancing and could seat about 25 people safely. Although The Hidden Cellar is still offering to-go orders of wine and charcuterie boards, Babineaux said those sales do not come close to making up for the loss in revenue from in-house sales.

Hidden Cellar's two owners received a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program during the first shutdown, which Babineaux said was used in its entirety to pay her staff for eight weeks. With that money spent, she said the second shutdown order forced her to let her staff go.

"Some days there are two to-go orders, [and] some days there are 10, but that doesn’t fill in any gap really," Babineaux said. "To-go orders just aren't enough revenue to pay a staff, period."

Even after the shutdown is lifted, Babineaux said she worries about the long-term fears people will have about bars. The number of people who were coming into The Hidden Cellar for the brief time it was open was still much lower than before the pandemic, she said.

Brew:30 Taphouse on Telge Road in Cypress is another venue that has turned to to-go sales to try to stay afloat, putting together an online store where customers can buy beer to-go and other merchandise. In an interview with Community Impact Newspaper prior to the June 26 shutdown, Brew:30 co-owner Gary Marler said the revenue coming in was still well short of what was needed to break even.

"We were doing a lot more [to-go orders] than before, but none of that replaced the sales volume we need to be at to be successful," he said.

Marler said he experimented with offering beer via delivery, but demand was not strong. Starting July 8, Brew:30 will be rolling out a new delivery offer with Rockwell Grill where customers can order crowlers from Brew:30 and chicken wings from Rockwell in a package deal, according to a recent Facebook post.

Moving forward, Babineaux said she hopes to see some revision to the shutdown order that gives more lenience to mom and pop venues. She said it is hard to say what the future holds for her business.

"There’s no way to project it; we have no end in sight," Babineaux said. "It’s just devastating, I think, for anyone in this industry right now."
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


MOST RECENT

(Courtesy AMC Theatres)
AMC Theatres to reopen Aug. 20 with 15-cent tickets

AMC Theatres—which has multiple locations in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas—will begin reopening its movie screens Aug. 20.

Stein Mart stores, including those in the Houston region, may close as part of the company's liquidation process. (Valerie Wigglesworth/Community Impact Newspaper)
Stein Mart Inc. files for bankruptcy, launches store closing process

Stein Mart Inc. announced Aug. 12 that it had voluntarily filed for bankruptcy.

The facility in Tomball is being designed by Ziegler Cooper Architects. (Rendering courtesy Tomball Economic Development Corp.)
Karbach Brewing Co.'s Chris Juergen to offer brewery, restaurant in Tomball and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Greater Houston area.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Aug. 12 a plan including best practices recommended for schools to open safely once the 2020-21 school year begins. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harris County judge: Opening local schools will not be safe ‘anytime in the near future’

Judge Lina Hidalgo announced today a plan including best practices recommended for schools to open safely once the 2020-21 school year begins.

According to the report, 380,174 total COVID-19 cases have been reported in children nationwide as of Aug. 6, which accounts for approximately 9.1% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
REPORT: COVID-19 cases in children increase by 90% nationwide in 1 month

As school district officials across the U.S. prepare for the start of the 2020-21 school year, 179,990 new COVID-19 cases were reported in children nationwide between July 9 and Aug. 6—an increase of 90%, according to a report compiled by The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

Houston-area home sales jump 23% year over year in July

July also set a record high median price for single-family homes, $271,830, a 8.7% year-over-year increase.

First Watch is coming soon to Towne Lake. (Courtesy First Watch)
First Watch coming soon to Cy-Fair area

The cafe offers classic breakfast items, such as omelets and pancakes, in addition to avocado toast, wraps, breakfast tacos, salads, sandwiches and fresh juices.

Harris County is exploring the creation of a new official in charge of elections, which would take effect Nov. 18, after the 2020 election cycle. (Graphic by Anya Gallant/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County moves forward with creation of elections administrator office

Harris County Commissioners Court is moving forward with the creation of an elections administrator office following the approval of a study Aug. 11.

The University of Texas will host football games at Darrell K. Royal Veterans Memorial Stadium this fall after an announcement from the Big 12 Conference on Aug. 12 that the fall sports season will continue. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
After Big Ten and PAC-12 cancel, Big 12 announces fall sports season will roll on

The conference football season will begin Sept. 26, and fan capacity in stadiums will be up to each of the 10 member universities, according to the Big 12.

The facility in Tomball is being designed by Ziegler Cooper Architects. (Rendering courtesy Tomball Economic Development Corporation)
NEW: Karbach Brewing Co. brewmaster Chris Juergen to bring brewery, restaurant to Tomball

The facility will span 10,500 square feet and include a brewery, restaurant, and packaging and distribution space on 4.6 acres in the park with indoor and outdoor space for guests, according to the release.

With many school districts starting the school year remotely or offering remote instruction options for the 2020-21 school year, access to the internet and internet-accessible devices will be vital for educating amidst a global pandemic. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Harris County aims to end digital divide among students through new $32.1M program

More than 120,000 mobile hot spots and 250,000 devices will be distributed to students in need across Harris County due to a program unanimously approved by Harris County Commissioners Court on Aug. 11.