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Texas bar owners sue Gov. Abbott to reopen amid pandemic

EL PASO, Texas -- A group of Texas bar owners filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that closed their businesses to help contain the spread of the coronavirus in Texas.

Abbott has pinpointed the re-opening of bars last month as one of the sources behind a dramatic spike in new confirmed cases and hospitalizations that has made Texas a national hotspot in a virus resurgence.

"If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting," Abbott said during an interview with ABC-7 last week.

Abbott’s order shuttered establishments that make at least 51 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales. It also trimmed restaurant dining capacity from 75 percent to 50 percent.

The Texas Bar and NightClub Alliance (TBNA) was involved in bringing the legal action. In the lawsuit, bar owners argue that their rights have been “trampled” by Abbott while “thousands of businesses are on the brink of bankruptcy.”

The suit alleges Abbott doesn’t have the authority under the state constitution to make such an order, and that it targets bars while allowing other establishments, such as hair and nail salons and tattoo studios to remain open.

“The lawsuit is to show that if you come to the front door of the restaurant and someone says would you like to wait in the bar or would you care to be seated for dinner? There is no delineation between that bar and this bar, The Blind Pig, that I am sitting at on 6th Street. They are identical and should both be allowed to operate,” said Bob Woody, an El Paso bar owner who is a member of the TBNA board

He added, “We see that restaurants and bars, if you operate within the guidelines, why would you shut one down and not the other? It’s a double standard.”

Woody told ABC-7 that TBNA represents about 600 businesses around the state. “It’s an unfair situation and problem but give us the same rights that the restaurants have,” Woody said.

El Paso's Rockin’ Cigar Bar & Grill owner Frank Ricci Jr. recently joined TBNA and had his bar added to the lawsuit.

“What Texas has done, we feel our rights have been trampled on,” Ricci Jr. said.

“[Gov. Abbott] just cut our heads off and shut us off from facilitating business,” Ricci told ABC-7. “ I think the governor and the state of Texas needs to be held accountable for interfering with our livelihoods.”

Ricci said he was happy when he realized there was a voice for bar owners in Texas. “My hopes are that when the governor gets this go across the desk that to realize that this is too expensive these are constitutional issues they are very expensive and the governor will open his eyes and say we can't really blame the bars.”

The Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission said agents visited nearly 1,500 business across the state over the weekend to ensure compliance with Abbott’s order and found that 59 were still open. Of those, most agreed to immediately close and seven who didn’t had their licenses suspended for 30 days.

“If you are going to be closed for 30 days anyhow, why not go ahead and open? Why not show solidarity? Why not have TABC explain to you why you are being shut down. They really do not have the authority for this. The only authority they have is to fine you a thousand dollars a day,” Woody said.

But local bar owner Ricci Jr. is showing reservation.

“I was interested in doing that anyways. I don’t know what the consequences are. We don’t want to lose our license and we don’t want to go up against the city and the state,” he said.

Ricci Jr. said he will be re-opening his business for curbside pickup to patrons, but he will not be serving customers inside his establishment at this time.

A spokesman for Abbott did not immediately respond to a request from the Associated Press for comment on Monday.

The governor has previously said the actions of his executive order "are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and protect public health."

Biz/Tech / Coronavirus / Coronavirus Video / News / Texas Politics / Top Stories / Video

KVIA ABC-7

Associated Press

Texas Tribune

Comments

8 Comments

  1. Sadly this virus and the Governor’s authority to protect the public during a public health emergency over rides the bar owners. You can’t drink with a mask on your face and you can’t be in an enclosed area without a mask on your face, so there isn’t much choice.

    1. Hey dolt you can’t eat with a face mask on either. Plenty of restaurants with bars in El Paso. I guess you can’t afford going to a restaurant or staying in your libtard bubble.

      1. Thats true and you say very little that is true. The restaurants will most likely have to be shut down again too. We opened back up too soon and it will kill whats left of the economy. Since we have no leadership at the top, it looks as if things will get much worse before they get better. We were warned.

        1. Who’s we? President Trump warned everyone about the COVID-19 back on February 4 during the SOTU address. The bad rabid Democrat leadership was too busy trying to impeach him and tearing up the SOTU address. They did not take it seriously. Like politics, leadership is 99.99% local so place blame where it belongs. BTW – Your TDS makes you sound dumb.

          1. The only ones to give any credible warnings were Drs. Birx and Fauci. Their warnings were not taken seriously and so here we are: on the verge of every one but New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey having to shut down again.

  2. The President warning Americans in a SOTU address is not credible? Even setting aside your TDS you are an idiot. Obviously you did not watch the SOTU address. Yeah how is the libtard leadership doing in those blue states? How about some more nursing home COVID-19 deaths? Do New York and Governor Cuomo ring a bell. Half the 122,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are from nursing homes.

  3. Feo you are a numbskull! Trump spent a total of maybe 20 seconds on Covid, saying he “was working with China,” on Covid19. But took no ACTION despite warnings from Azar and Navarro weeks earlier. Of course he ignored his advisers, that’s what he does. He spent more time on the State of the Union address praising Rush Limbaugh than warning about Covid19. And about 160 days after Covid19 he is still saying that everything is under control. You are spitting on our shoes and telling us that it’s raining. Come on man! Stop fooling yourself and finally face Reality!

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