HOUSTON – Local business owners are sending a message to President Donald Trump and Gov. Greg Abbott in an emotional YouTube video posted this week. They are urging the elected officials to allow bars to reopen.
“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."
On May 1, Abbott allowed restaurants to reopen dining rooms at 25% capacity, followed by salons and barbershops on May 8. He is expected Monday to rollout the next phase of reopening, which is expected to include gyms, nonessential manufactures and businesses located in office buildings.
Originally Abbott said bars would get the go-ahead to reopen by mid-May. However, he has stopped short of putting a date on their reopening, saying he needs more information from experts to figure out how to reopen them safely.
In the 11-minute YouTube video, bar owners, employees and supporters urged lawmakers to outline reopening plans for the industry. Participating Houston-area bars included Two Mules Taven, Cross Track Ice House and The Good Fortune Club.
The group finds the uncertainty from lawmakers unacceptable.
“We are pleading with you, please remember us,” Chapman said. “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.”
Chapman shared his business is a partner to the community, supporting local sports teams, Toys for Tots and the Special Olympics. He also said the property was used as a supply distribution center for Houston during Hurricane Harvey.
John McDonald, a real estate broker in north Houston, supported the reopening of industry, saying many of the businesses that are deemed as nonessential are community centers.
“Small businesses and mom and pop shops that employ thousands of people are being ignored,” McDonald said. “Families are going with needs. Communities are not being united... Local bars or barbershops are essential to a community.”
The bar industry has been completely shut down for more than 50 days, banned from authorizing takeout orders that have allowed some restaurants to limp by, even as restaurants were given some permissions to sell to-go booze.
Texas bars have shed about 75,000 jobs and $630 million in revenue due to mandatory shutdowns. That’s also cost the state about $40 million in liquor tax revenue, said Kelsey Erickson Streufert, Texas Restaurant Association’s vice president of government affairs and advocacy.
The Texas Tribune has contributed to this report.
Check out the full video “Dear President Trump and Governor Abbott."