On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that bars, among other businesses, can reopen this Friday at 25 percent capacity. It’s welcome news for folks who’ve been aching for a cold drink they didn’t have to pour themselves — and for the bar owners that viewed their exclusion in the governor’s order that opened restaurants as a slight. Just as we saw some Dallas restaurants hesitate to return to dine-in service immediately after Abbott’s blessing, while others wasted little time doing so, the same seems to be true for bars and breweries.
What works for some is less feasible for others.
“Our mantra has always been we’d rather do it properly than quickly,” says Michael Peticolas, owner of Peticolas Brewing Company. “Our taproom was built with social togetherness, but now the call is for social distancing.” Peticolas and his team are assessing what reopening for them will look like.
He points out that what may work for the state or the county or even the city still may not be what makes the best sense for their taproom, staff, and community of beer lovers. “We’re not making our decisions based on dates given by any government,” he says. “I’m not worried about what the recommendation is; we have to keep the virus out of our facility.”
So the Peticolas curbside pickup and beer drive-thru will continue this week and for the short term, until they’re ready, perhaps closer to June.
Steve Pocari of Four Corners Brewing likewise is tentatively thinking June for a reopening, and even then the taproom might remain closed. “It’ll be easier because we have a large outdoor space and can actually have more customers by using the outdoor space,” he says. Steady off-premise beer sales from retail stores and the like mean Four Corners doesn’t have to rush. “But we also kind of want to see how it goes; I’m not much of an early adopter. And we’re in a position where we can be patient. I want to take the time and make sure we do it right.”
In an emailed statement, Double Wide and Single Wide owner Kim Finch said they were working on how to provide a familiar experience in accordance to the new rules. There is little social distancing in the tight, shotgun-style interiors of her two bars. Especially not as the evening gets later.
“With the reduced capacity, increased cost of sanitation and cleaning, it is presenting challenges for a small business like us to make it financially feasible,” she says. So for now it’ll continue its weekend Git ‘N’ Go drive-thru market.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of bar owners ready to swing the doors open again. Which is fair. According to the Texas Restaurant Association, bars, taverns, and nightclubs across the state have lost more than 75,000 jobs and $630 million in gross revenue since the shutdown in March. After restaurants’ dine-in service returned, the TRA turned its attention to getting bars up and running again with its Texas Bar Promise, which includes health guidelines that look similar to the state’s.
The minimum health protocols for bars released by the governor’s office isn’t too unlike the ones restaurants currently follow, with single-use menus and tableware. A few notable differences: customers should remain seated at tables where their orders can be taken, so no loitering around a bar. Dancing is also discouraged (yes, everyone has made the Footloose joke by now).
So let’s be real: we won’t be able to belly up to the bar and chat up our favorite bartenders like the good old days. And for now, any sort of bump and grind remains canceled in these COVID times. That’s not stopping bars from welcoming folks back.
Lee Harvey’s is getting things rolling immediately at midnight on Friday, staying open for just two hours until 2 a.m., then back to normal hours (11 a.m. until 2 a.m.). The Cedars dive shared a Facebook post about its plans to return: “The outside bar for the unforeseeable future will be the only bar open. Our outside picnic tables will be placed appropriately apart, and we (almost forcefully) ask you respect others surroundings and personal space, in order for this to work and be a success without any issues. Please be self aware and aware for others.”
Eddie Campbell of Parliament and Standard Pour says he’s less concerned with dates and occupancy limits than with providing the utmost safety for his staff and guests. “We as an ownership group, we side more on the side of safety and precaution,” he says. He felt May 1 was too soon to reopen Standard Pour, so its dining service returns this week. As for Parliament, the Uptown bar will open May 25 with limited hours (4 to midnight).
And he may allow less than 25 or 50 percent (when the time comes) occupancy if the spacing doesn’t feel quite right. Peticolas shares a similar view. When 100 percent capacity allowance happens, says Peticolas, “if the vibe amongst the community is I don’t like that, then, no, we won’t do that.”
Like restaurants, it seems bar owners will all take tailored routes to reopening, listening to their patrons and (gently) finger-wagging at those not following the rules while drinking. Campbell does note one positive component to all this so far: “In the olden days, we used to see some patios packed and other patios were empty … . With people self-managing their social distancing, all of the patios have a nice evenly spread throughout Dallas.”
Look, we’re spreading — the good kind!