Bar owners not happy about Governor's latest decision to keep bars closed

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David Norris talks to bars owners aboutthe governor’s decision to keep them closed. (SBG Photo)

The Sqeezebox Bar just off Saint Mary's, like most bars right now, is going through some rough times.

Even so, across town, owner Aaron Pena is doing something you might not expect at a time like this.

Opening a second location.

"Seems strange, but strange times," said Pena. "We were actually working on the project before the pandemic hit. So we decided to carry on with the project."

With bars still on the "no go" list, Aaron is doing what many other bar owners are doing to keep their business running. Turning his bar into a restaurant by getting a food and beverage permit.

"Food and beverage permit allows you to operate as a restaurant without having commercial kitchen equipment," said Pena.

With restaurant status, bars get the same capacity limits as restaurants.

Starting next week, Governor Greg Abbott said that will go up to 75 percent in certain areas of the state.

"It was kind of a lifeline thrown to us by the state government and the TABC to try and reopen some bars and get some revenue going," said Pena.

But bar owners are a creative bunch. And some have found other ways to keep things going.

Like Joey Villareal, owner of Joey's Bar off Saint Mary's.

He's turned his bar into a drive-in-theatre, showing movies on the back wall of his bar.

"They can sit in their car and watch a movie with the FM radio on and hear the movie," said Villareal.

He understands the importance of the food and beverage permit, but he can't help but to think bars shouldn't be forced to do something they never signed up for.

"I think bars that have out doors should be able to do business. That's my opinion," he said.

An opinion shared by Pena and many other bar owners around town.

"Yeah, absolutely. I think the general consensus across the board is that we want to be given the chance to operate safely and to show we can operate safely," said Pena. "And I think there is a few handful of bars that have already ruined that chance for people like myself. But why should we pay for their mistake?"