New TABC Regulations Rock Bar Industry

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DENTON - On March 4, an elderly man in Fort Bend County tested positive for COVID-19. Then nine days later on March 13, Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster.

Here we are… Eight months later in the midst of a new normal, where people have now added masks to their mental checklist when they leave home.

As election day looms closer, many wonder how the potentially new faces in office will juggle suppressing the virus and the need for society to get back to some semblance of normal.

With the new normal comes new social rules and legal regulations. That includes an updated Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) mandate stating that any establishment that does not normally qualify as a restaurant can apply to be classified as one if 51% or more of their sales come from their food.

In turn, that allowed almost 25% of bars around the state to apply for restaurant status and more than 1000 have successfully reopened as restaurants.

However, some bars have not been as fortunate and the owners of the bars who were forced to close feel as though they are being unfairly targeted.

The purpose of the executive order is to make it easier for bars and pubs to stay open. However, because many bars do not have the higher end cooking equipment and the staff don't specialize in making food for large crowds in large portions, it creates a tough situation.

The disconnect comes with the idea that there is not much difference between drinking a beer and eating a meal in the way of safety. Both require mask removal and carry the risk of spreading the virus.

Andy's Bar and Grill in Denton is one of those such establishments that was forced to temporarily close due to the guidelines in place. Not everyone has had a smooth transition to the new normal.

As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the likelihood of these new rules being revoked is going in the opposite direction. Unless the state legislature reneges on the executive order, we could see more bar owners up-in-arms about the new guidelines. A recent update in the pursuit of bar attendance, on October 8 Governor Abbott allowed bars to open at 50% capacity. While the damages of a several month-long layoff have already been done, some could suffer the same fate as Andy's and therefore the same emotional and financial effects.

A "Mask Required For Entry" sign at East Side Denton. Many tables have been marked off to stop customers from eating at them.

This is a staple at all the bars and restaurants in the area. Masks are required when customers aren't at their tables. This way, they aren't walking around without a face covering.

One of the popular bars that closed is Andy's Bar and Grill. Before it's temporary closure, Andy's was one of the more popular bars and had it's iconic mural on the side of the building

Hooligans is one of the bars temporarily closed due to COVID-19. It has been open since 2006.

A man drinks a few beers while socially distanced from other customers at Oak St. Drafthouse and Cocktail Parlor. The social distancing abilities of even small venue bars and restaurants is constantly being tested.

A prompt for customers to wash their hands at Lucky Lou's. All of the bars have adapted an atmosphere of constantly reminding patrons to stay distanced and keep their hands clean. Many have hand sanitizer stations placed at different points around the building.

A man waits for his appetizer to arrive at Lucky Lou's. The tables all have separated a measured 7 ft, and while face coverings are required they aren't when people are seated.

A sign outside of Fry Street Tavern detailing the COVID-19 situation and how it affects the bar. Many venues have signs detailing the new rules to the customers so that they are clear on what has changed.