Texas bars will reopen this weekend – with restrictions – as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s second phase of reopening the state.
Shuttered for nine weeks, bars across the state, like the Shelton Gin in downtown Palestine, were one of the first businesses Abbott closed due to the pandemic.
“We went from the best of times, money-wise, to zero dollars coming in,” said Shelton Gin owner Viral Gandhi.
Unable to sell the liquor on the shelves, the Shelton Gin locked it up or put it in cold storage. Because beer has an expiration date, the bar disposed of it.
While reopening, bars will operate with some restrictions. They may operate at only a 25-percent indoor capacity, based on the occupancy limit set by the state Fire Marshall. (Capacity is based, not on square footage, but fire exits.)
For the Gin, 25 percent of capacity means it can accommodate 82 people inside, but an unlimited number on its patio, as long as tables are spaced six feet apart. The Gin’s staff have also set up hand sanitizing stations throughout and spaced tables at least six feet apart.
Under the state's phase-two order, dancing is prohibited.
The Gin’s staff will have to police social distancing, and they will keep the music volume low, so that customers can converse without getting too close or congregating around the bar.
Gandhi and his crew have moved more tables outside and will encourage people to enjoy the bar’s patio area, instead of staying inside.
“We’re not quite sure what to expect in the way of attendance” Gandhi said. “You won’t really know until you open your doors on Friday. We always keep a tally of how many people we have in the bar, scanning their license when they arrive. So that’s not an issue for us.”
As an incentive to sit outdoors Saturday, the Gin will feature Blacktop Mojo lead singer Matt James in an acoustic show on the patio.
“I’m thankful that when we reach indoor capacity, we have the option to offer people patio seating, instead of having to turn them away,” Gandhi said.
As of Wednesday, the Platinum Zone’s owner and staff were still planning how they could safely reopen while giving patrons the experience they have come to expect.
The owner of Outlaw Country was unavailable for an interview.
Other businesses that may reopen Friday include bowling alleys, bingo halls, skating rinks, rodeo/ equestrian events, aquariums, and natural caverns.
Zoos may reopen May 29; youth sports camps on May 31, along with all summer camps and daytime and overnight camps. Summer school is allowed, starting June 1.