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Waco bar takes part in statewide 'soft opening'

Posted at 10:57 PM, May 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-16 00:22:00-04

WACO, TX — Bars across the State of Texas held soft openings May 15 to protest the governor's executive orders requiring bars remain closed while restaurants and hair salons can open at limited capacity.

The soft openings were organized by the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance (TBNA), which hoped to allow local bars to show state leaders the safety measures they would take if they were allowed to reopen to customers.

Bars like The Backyard Bar Stage and Grill in Waco were not allowed to let customers in, but employees were allowed to play music and operate the bar as it would on a normal night.

Currently, establishments who obtain at least 51% of their revenue from the sale of alcohol cannot open their doors to patrons. The Backyard is among that group.

"We decided to take advantage of the soft opening just to get our employees in here," Chris Cox, a co-owner of The Backyard said. "We wanted to go through the guidelines that we see may happen if they allow us to open up."

The TBNA gave bars a detailed explanation of rules bars would likely be required to follow if they were allowed to reopen. The organization sent those rules to the governor earlier this week.

  1. 51% of licenses will maintain occupancy in accordance with CDC recommendations and in collaboration with the state, aligning with full-service restaurants.
  2. 51% of licenses will install tables and chairs to eliminate open areas and encourage patrons to sit instead of standing to maintain social distancing.
  3. 51% of licenses will hire additional door staff to ensure that social distancing guidelines are met and that groups of patrons do not form. This will also provide additional jobs for Texans.
  4. 51% of licenses will adhere to the Texas Restaurant Promise adopted in the Phase I opening of restaurants.
  5. Coordination with local city governments to maintain the suspension of road closures in entertainment districts.
  6. Adoption of single-use plastic cups and paper plates.
  7. Mandatory and supervised use of hand sanitizer before entry and re-entry.
  8. Encourage all staff to retake TABC certification class online.
  9. All staff must wear masks during operating hours and encourage patrons to wear masks.
  10. Enforcement: TABC has legal authority to immediately suspend any license that poses an immediate threat or danger to public safety for 90 days.

Bars who participated in the soft openings were encouraged to follow those guidelines.

"We're following what the restaurant guidelines are right now," Cox said. "And that's what we're trying to teach them to where if Monday he gives us the go-ahead, hopefully we're ahead of the game."

The TBNA hopes the proposal and soft openings will help convince state leaders to reverse their current position on bars in Texas. So far, the shutdown around 75,000.

"We can never make up for what we lost in spring, because spring is our prime, target [season] for big concerts and that sort of thing," Cox said. "This year will kinda be for nothing."

Even if bars reopen, it will be at limited capacity, and it may take time for people to come flooding back to them.

"As long as they're using good social distancing policies, keeping people away from each other, I think it should be fine," said Parker White, a college student.

There is currently no set date for bars to reopen. Governor Abbott is expected to address the issue in his press conference Monday.