AUSTIN, Texas - A fourth bar in Austin has had their alcohol license suspended by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for not following Governor Greg Abbott's orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Soho Lounge is the latest local establishment to join the list, which already includes Buford's Beer Garden, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Icehouse, and Unbarlievable on West 6th Street.
Austin Talley, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot's director of operations said after being served with the 30-day suspension by TABC, they filed for an emergency hearing to appeal the decision.
TABC says over the weekend they conducted a statewide operation to make sure bars and restaurants were complying with Governor Greg Abbott's orders.
“As part of that operation, we visited more than approximately 600 bars statewide. And of those, we found a total of 17 violations where we did have to take action to suspend their permits for 30 days because they were unable to comply with those orders,” said Chris Porter, public information officer for TABC.
“This suspension is basically a $500,000 fine. When you look at the amount of revenue we’re not making and the people who depend on it, their livelihoods depend on it, this is a $500,000 fine. Not many business owners can handle that,” Talley said.
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“I don’t think Governor Abbott‘s intention was to force people out of business,” he added.
The suspension is not only painful for him and his employees; Talley said it was also a complete shock because the officer that visited Whiskey Tango didn't mention any violations when he was there.
“He said, ‘You guys are doing great.’ Shook all our hands, I mean we high-fived each other in the lounge,” said Talley.
“15 hours later, from the time they left our premises, we were served formally by TABC. My GM and an assistant GM who was present asked them, ‘What infractions?’ They said, ‘This is not up for debate,’” he added.
Whiskey Tango said they posted COVID-19 guidelines on their door, limited occupancy to less than 50 percent, took customer's temperatures, disinfected their hands, spaced out tables, and shut down their lounge.
TABC said they were looking specifically at occupancy and enforcement of social distancing guidelines.
“If there's a situation where a bar employee, or a manager, or an owner, identifies a potential violation of the governor's orders, it's going to be up to that bar to either call for help from local police or from the TABC directly or go ahead and take the matter into their own hands,” said Porter.
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