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.


From left, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, Wayne Young, CEO of The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis announced a new community-initiated mental health care project during a press conference Oct. 26. (Screenshot via Facebook Live)
Harris County officials unveil new three-year $8.93M community-initiated mental health care initiative

The community care model will focus on 10 ZIP codes totaling about 300,000 residents that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and suicide, and that have a lower utilization of behavioral health care services, by providing mental health education and training to members of the community.

Crust Pizza Co. is opening soon in Cypress. (Courtesy Crust Pizza Co.)
Crust Pizza Co. coming soon to Cypress

The menu features pizzas, calzones, pastas, salads, hot subs and desserts, including gelato.

Harris County Deputy Kareem Atkins was honored by Harris County commissioners on Oct. 26. (Emily Lincke/Community Impact Newspaper)
Harris County commissioners designate Oct. 25 as 'Deputy Kareem Atkins Day'

“Deputy Kareem Atkins Day” will be celebrated annually to recognize Atkins' heroism and service, Judge Lina Hidalgo said at the court’s Oct. 26 regular meeting. According to Hidalgo, Atkins was the first Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office deputy to be fatally shot.

"The Dude" is the signature burger at Lebowski's Grill. (Olivia Aldridge/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Lebowski's Grill upends expectations in Austin; first Houston-area Costco Business Center opens in Stafford and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 26.

Lone Star College System received approval from ACEN on Oct. 25. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lone Star College System receives approval from Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing

The accreditation is voluntary but reportedly offers more advantages for students, such as financial aid and easier credit transfers.

New statewide maps will go into effect Jan. 18, 2022. (Community Impact Newspaper Staff)
Gov. Abbott approves new voting maps for state legislature, Congress, school districts for next decade

The maps will go into effect Jan. 18, 2022, after the state legislature passed them during a 30-day special session.

The statewide job fair will connect veterans to employers as well as other resource providers. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Statewide job fair aims to connect Texas veterans and their families to employers

The job fair is coming to local Texas Workforce Solutions offices, some of which are having early admission for veterans and their families.

(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Texas Medical Center coronavirus updates: Average daily hospitalizations continue decline, drop below 100 since early July

For the first time since early July, the average number of daily coronavirus hospitalizations at Texas Medical Center hospitals has dropped below 100.

Tomball community members lined West Main Street in the early morning hours Monday to honor the fallen deputy during the funeral procession. (Courtesy Mike Baxter)
Slain Harris County Precinct 4 Deputy Kareem Atkins honored with procession, funeral

Tomball community members lined West Main Street in the early morning hours Monday to honor the fallen deputy during the funeral procession. 

Teso Life currently has a location in Carrollton near another 99 Ranch Market and other Asian businesses and restaurants. (Matt Payne/Community Impact Newspaper)
CI NATION ROUNDUP: Japanese department store Teso Life coming to Frisco; New Braunfels’ Gruene Hall set as backdrop for Scotty McCreery music video and more top news

Take a look at the top five trending stories across all of Community Impact Newspaper’s coverage areas as of Oct. 25.

Child on a computer.
Texas Education Agency accepting applications for $1,500 grants for students in special education

To be eligible for the grant, students must be enrolled in pre-K through 12th grade in a Texas public school and served by a special education program.