Bars and Breweries Can Reopen, But No One Can Be at the Actual Bar

Ah... 2019.
Ah... 2019. Kelsey Shoemaker
On Monday, Phase 2 of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas was released, which allows bars to reopen at 25% indoor capacity, with no restrictions on outdoor areas, starting Friday.

A bar, according to the state, is any establishments where 51% or more of their sales are alcohol. Also included are wine-tasting rooms, craft breweries and “smaller businesses.” 

The state released a set of Minimum Standard Health Protocols that outlines how bars should conduct business. It’s a doozy. 

Protocol highlight reel: 
• No loitering at the bar or commonly trafficked areas.
• Customers should remain seated at tables inside the bar.
• Only provide service to seated patrons. (Cue Peticolas' Sit Down Or I'll Sit You Down)
• Parties should remain separated by 6 feet all times, including while seated.
• No tables of more than six people.
• Activities that enable close contact, including dancing, are discouraged.
• Chairs and tables must be spaced 6 feet apart and can’t be moved.
• Physically block off the bar and remove or block off bar stools so customers may neither sit nor order at the bar itself.
• Hand sanitation station available upon entrance

And if these rules aren’t followed?

“TABC has the authority to suspend any license that poses an immediate threat or danger to public safety. Failure to follow these protocols may result in a 30-day license suspension for the first infraction, and a 60-day suspension for a second infraction.”

As far as outdoors, all that Phase 2 says is "these occupancy limits do not apply to outdoor areas that maintain safe distancing among parties."

click to enlarge
Sit Down or I'll Sit You Down might be the official beer mascot of Phase 2.
Taylor Adams

Michael Peticolas, owner of Peticolas Brewing Co., points out that general rules are very hard to navigate. The more specific the rule, generally, the easier it is to follow.

Case in point: It says hand sanitation "upon entry." What if there's more than one entrance? So, bars need to have a station at every entrance? Or is every person responsible for locating that station upon entering? How much of this will be on servers to engage with patrons to follow the protocols?

The bigger issue, Peticolas says, is that everyone is trying to figure out their path forward at their own pace and level of comfort.

"We don't care what dates are put out there," Peticolas says, referring to May 22. "What's best for us? What's best for our employees? We want to open properly, not quickly."

Another caveat in all of this is the city of Dallas’ temporary parklet program that allows “additional merchandising or dining areas — allowing for social distancing practice while expanding business floor areas.” 

So, a bar, brewery or even a retail space can expand into a parking lot or sidewalk to increase their seating capacity.

We did a roundup of a handful of places to get a sense of what bars are doing:

The folks at Lakewood Landing still aren’t sure what their plans are. They were, however, looking for tables and chairs to expand their outdoor seating capacity.

Lee Harvey’s is being very Lee Harvey-ish and opened at midnight Thursday, staying open until 2 a.m. Friday. They'll open back up at 11 a.m. Friday for regular business hours. They posted to their Facebook page: "The outside bar for the unforeseeable future will be the only bar open."

Ronny and Michelle Honea of The Grapevine Bar are worried about keeping staff and customers safe. They met with their staff Tuesday and collectively decided to wait to reopen sometime in June “when they are comfortable."   

Ships Lounge will open Wednesday. Strangeways will open Friday. High Fives on Henderson is on the Lee Harvey path and also opened at midnight Thursday. And, they’re hiring. 

Barcadia is opening as well, even though the minimum health protocols says that facilities with video arcades must remain closed. But, they’re a bar too. And a restaurant. 

The Tipsy Alchemist is taking reservations for Friday and Saturday so they can adhere to the social distancing.

Lakewood Brewing Co. is slowly opening the taproom Tuesday.

Celestial Beerworks wrote on their Facebook page, "... Unfortunately we aren’t ready to provide the high level of safety, service, and hospitality that will be needed so soon."

Plans and paths forward vary widely. What works for one business or customer might not work for another. Like Peticolas says, "We have to cut each other a little slack, though. We're all just trying to figure it out."
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.

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