Bar, nightclub owners anticipate governor’s announcement in hopes of reopening

HOUSTON – Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to make an announcement this week. Bar and nightclub owners are holding out hope that it will pertain to positive news for their business.

Business is far from normal at Craft Beer Cellar in downtown Houston. Seats around the bar are sectioned off and their customer base has decreased due to the pandemic, said owner Steve Labac.

“I hope it’s over soon for all businesses,” Labac said. “Even with the 50% capacity, it’s very tough. A lot of businesses are still expected to pay a 100% of rent, but we have 50% of capacity.”

These days Labac’s bar is operating more like a restaurant. He said they serve 51% food and 49% beverages, all part of Gov. Abbott’s executive order.

“We had to get a food and beverage permit, which was a little extra money and add that into our license so we can serve on-premise,” Labac said.

Michael Klein, president of the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance (TBNA), said a lot of bars and nightclubs are making that transition, since the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) won’t allow them to open their doors otherwise.

“It costs money and it’s expensive and there’s a time period to wait but everyone can now apply to license as a restaurant whether or not you serve on-premise food,” Klein said.

The TBNA said 20,000 letters have been sent asking him and other government officials to reopen bars safely and sustainably.

Abbott on Twitter last week hinted to an announcement in the coming days regarding the State’s next steps. The governor also mentioned he has no plans to lockdown Texas again.

Popular Houston chef Chris Shepherd, who owns Underbelly Hospitality, said his industry is taking a huge hit too. Shepherd said profit margins are low at restaurants and costs are going up. He also said the Payment Protection Program loans from the Federal Government, which he applied for, runs out this month.

“Without any forbearance on rent and individuals without a good system for unemployment, there’s going to be a lot of people in our industry that are going to start to struggle right now,” Chef Shepherd said.

Shepherd said his non-profit, Southern Smoke, has raised $3.1 million since March to assist restaurant employees struggling to pay for healthcare and rent.