Abbott allowed restaurants' dining rooms to reopen at 25% capacity starting May 1, salons and barbershops to reopen May 8, and has announced plans to reopen gyms, nonessential manufacturers and businesses located in office buildings on May 18. However, the bar industry is one of the few remaining industries without a target reopening date.
In a May 5 press conference, Abbott said bars will remain closed as the state works with local bar owners to implement best practices prior to reopening those businesses.
"Just as we showed we can work very rapidly with regard to responding to hair salons and barbershops, we want to hear from bars about the types of strategies that you can use ... to prevent the transmission of COVID-19," Abbott said in a statement.
In response, representatives from local bars including Two Mules Tavern, Cross Track Icehouse and The Good Fortune Club appeared in a video May 12 in a plea to reopen the industry.
"For whatever reason, we can't socially distance the same as a restaurant according to you; we have video here showing that is exactly what we can do," Two Mules Tavern owner Colin Chapman said in the video. "Every day we wake up and are told we're non-essential. We no longer find this acceptable. We are pleading with you, please remember us. These people have families, these people have homes, these people have bills, these people are feeding their kids ramen noodles. Maybe it's time to remember that we do exist. ... We've put the ball in your court and are waiting on you."
In addition to serving as a neighborhood watering hole, Chapman said Two Mules Tavern also does its share to give back to the community by supporting Toys for Tots, Special Olympics and local sports teams. During Hurricane Harvey, Chapman said the entire venue was converted into a distribution center to supply necessities across the Greater Houston area.
Likewise, Shelia Hadlow, the daytime bartender for Cross Track Ice House, said in the video that the bar located in Old Town Spring is also a staple for the local community.
"Not only are we starving and trying to make a living, trying to do what we can, but our customers need us just as much as we need them," she said. "We give back to our community and it's time that we are heard because we are essential."
Brandy Stout, who works at The Good Fortune Club, said the future of one of the oldest bars in south Montgomery County remains uncertain the longer it takes for the industry to reopen.
"We are on the verge of not being able to open back up if we don't get to soon," Stout said in the video. "It still costs us everyday to have a place that there's no customers in, there's no income and we can't do that much longer. I've been in the industry for 26 years, I raised three girls in the industry, never once needing government assistance or unemployment up until this point. We need somebody to stand up for us."
However, these three businesses are not the only local bars affected by the temporary statewide closure. Bimbo's Bar has also been closed since mid-March.
The same could be said for Lone Star Ice House, which marked 10 years in the Spring community on April 18. In a May 2 post via its Facebook page, Lone Star Ice House stated that they were taking all the steps necessary to ensure the safety of guests and staff in preparation for reopening and had even added some new outdoor games during the closure.
Litehouse Ice House, known as "the best little bar in Klein since 1973" is also taking this time to make some changes. After 47 years, owner Toni Baiardi announced that Litehouse Ice House would not be reopening post-coronavirus. Instead, she would be debuting a new business concept with a new name. Baiardi has since been holding "garage sales" to get rid of some of the bar supplies she will no longer need in her new business venture.
Local dance halls, including Whiskey River North and Big Texas Dance Hall & Saloon Spring, have also been closed for nearly two months. In addition to launching a GoFundMe page to support staff during the closure, Big Texas Spring has also been auctioning off some of the venue's memorabilia through its Facebook page from which proceeds support staff in need.
While the future remains unclear for many of these local bar owners as they wait for further direction from Abbott, several GoFundMe pages have been set up to keep local businesses afloat during the closure. To support Bimbo's Bar staff, click here. To support Two Mules Tavern staff, click here. To support The Good Fortune Club staff, click here.