The service industry has taken a major financial hit amid the pandemic. Without the ability for patrons to dine-in and congregate at full capacity, revenue for restaurants, bars and other nightlife activities plummeted.
Bar industry losses during the shutdown period are at more than $630 million and the state has missed out on at least $42 million in liquor tax revenue. An estimated 75,000 jobs were affected.
Various Texas bar owners upset with the continued closures held a symbolic “soft open” on May 15 to signal that their willingness and readiness to reopen, including some in San Antonio.
Restaurants, unlike bars, were able to offer curbside and to-go orders as a stop-gap measure during the shutdown. Dining rooms were allowed to reopen May 1 at 25% capacity with enhanced cleaning protocols and will be able to increase to 50% on Friday.
The Texas Restaurant Association and the Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance had called on Abbott to reopen bars. The TRA recently presented the state's reopening task force with a "Texas Bar Promise" that includes guidelines for bars and patrons to prioritize social distancing and sanitation, similar to the previously issued "Texas Restaurant Promise."
How are bars going to create a safe environment for patrons now that they too have been given the green light? What guidelines and recommendations have been issued for how to reopen safely?
How will social distancing be maintained? Are there different restrictions for indoor and outdoor establishments? What are the biggest health concerns for bars to be mindful of at this time?
Can bars and nightclubs be profitable at 25% capacity? How will their reopening affect service industry employees' ability to collect unemployment benefits? When could capacity limits be lifted further?
- Jody Bailey-Newman, owner of The Friendly Spot Ice House and member of the Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance; representative for bars and entrepreneurs on the San Antonio-Bexar County joint Economic Transition Team
- Joe Monastero, chief strategy and operations officer for the Texas Restaurant Association
- Dr. Ruth Berggren, infectious diseases specialist and director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at UT Health San Antonio; COVID-19 consultant for the City of San Antonio and member of the joint Health Transition Team
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*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, May 19.