AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has suspended seven bars' alcohol permits for 30 days after they say the bars refused to comply with Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order requiring they close to limit the spread of COVID-19
The order, issued on Friday, requires all bars earning at least 51% of their revenue from alcohol sales to shut down. Restaurants that earn less than 51% from alcohol sales can continue to operate at 50% of their indoor capacity.
Boarded up and locked, bars in Austin have now shut down under state orders for the second time this year. “It was once again a giant disappointment,” said Austin Talley, director of operations at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Icehouse.
TABC says agents visited nearly 1,500 Texas businesses this past weekend to verify that they were complying with the order. 59 were found to be operating in violation of the order; 52 of those agreed to immediately close.
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The remaining seven refused to close and were issued 30-day permit suspensions, including one in Austin and one in Fredericksburg:
- Black Stone USA, Fredericksburg
- Bokeeters Cocktail Bar, New Caney
- Prospect Park, Houston
- The Park @ The Domain, Austin
- The Venue Private Club, Wills Point
- Whiskey Girl, Abilene (suspended on June 26)
- Outlaws Longview, Longview (suspended on June 26)
Businesses that do not comply with the order face up to a 30-day suspension of their license to sell alcohol for the first violation, followed by up to a 60-day suspension for the second violation. Continued violations could result in additional penalties, including cancellation of the business’ alcohol license or permit.
“I’m thinking that you’re going to see the face of Austin change even more 30 days from now. I think, if that lasts for a whole 30 days, there’s gonna be businesses that aren’t reopening,” Talley said.
The Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance isn't going down without a fight this time. They plan to file a lawsuit against the state seeking a temporary restraining order of the governor's order. In a statement, TBNA president Michael Klein writes:
"Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance (TBNA) is taking the necessary steps to protect the rights of our members and their employees across the state who have been unjustly singled out by Governor Abbott. The shutdown order that was effective Friday, June 26, discriminates against one specific segment of an industry. Even after adhering to strict guidelines restricting occupancy, ensuring safe serving practices for both customers and employees; bars and nightclubs across the state have to once again close. Other businesses such as restaurants, many of which have identical bar rooms or areas as our membership, are allowed to continue to operate at a reduced capacity. To suggest the public welfare is protected by singling out one specific type of alcoholic beverage license over another is without logic and does not further the aim of protecting the public from COVID.”
Talley said he's still trying to decide whether to file with TBNA.
Whiskey Tango was shut down by TABC one week ago after agents said they were in violation of the governor's “Open Texas” guidelines. However, they signed an agreement with the commission in order to reopen their doors Friday. Before they could, the governor issued his new order closing all bars indefinitely.
Talley felt blindsided. “If you truly want to be a representative of the people, a statesman, then why weren’t we a part of the conversation? I want to see the scientific data that proves whatever is your ruling on closing small businesses,” he said.
Texans can report a potential violation by email, by calling 888-THE-TABC, or by using the free TABC:Mobile app for Apple and Android devices. To view TABC’s guidance for the alcoholic beverage industry, click here.
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