Central Texas dance halls still waiting for green light to reopen

Posted at 12:18 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 13:23:08-04

On Friday, May 15 the Texas Bar and Night Club Alliance wants bar and dance hall owners to hold a soft opening to show the state they're ready to reopen.

Central Texas business owners say they won't do anything that threatens their license and continue to wait but each day makes it tougher.

On opening night just last year, 5J Dance Hall welcomed a big crowd.

"Our year anniversary would have been April the 19th. We had a big Moe Bandy party planned and as you know that never got to happen," said 5J Dance Hall Owner Emily Jones Roberts.

Roberts says when the pandemic hit, her lender TFNB reached out to help and they got a PPP loan, but..."more months of this and we're all in trouble," she says.

The Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance sent a ten-point plan to Governor Abbott describing how they think 51% alcohol license holders can safely reopen. On Friday, the TBNA wants bars and clubs to hold a soft opening that doesn't include patrons but would show their readiness to reopen.

"It's a catch 22 because we are a dance hall. There is no social distancing on the dance floor. You can't two-step, six feet away," said Roberts.

5J Dance Hall is not doing a soft reopening and neither is The Melody Ranch.

"I'm not going to participate in this," said The Melody Ranch Owner Shawn Seay. "Texas is strict on bars. It's pointless to put your license on the line," said Seay.

Their dance floor went from packed to empty with no PPP funding.

"In the last two months, we probably lost over a quarter of a million dollars in revenue," said Seay.

Their landlord is giving them some leeway but instead of asking for help, they're giving back.

"We started doing fundraisers for other businesses and donating. We helped 7 businesses locally with no strings attached. Just hand them a check," said Seay.

And once the doors do reopen...

"Our message to Central Texas is come out and see us. We're not going to break any rules and wait til the governor gives us the green light. We're hoping everyone is tired of sitting at home on the weekends and wants to get back to a new normal," said Roberts.

In April, Governor Abbott said he hoped to reopen bars "on or no later than mid-May." He has since walked back that timeline saying he first needs feedback from bar owners and health professionals.

The governor has not yet responded to the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance's plan.