Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced today Texas bars can begin reopening this coming Friday, May 22. But not every bar owner is rushing to swing wide the doors. Some LGBTQ bars are still weighing their options, while some have already given a definite no. And still others are saying they will be open on Friday.

Among those planning to be open on Friday, according to posts on Facebook, are Marty’s! Live, The Tin Room, Zippers and The Liquid Zoo Bar and Grill.

UPDATED: Austin Ralph, owner of The Urban Cowboy Saloon in Fort Worth, has notified Dallas Voice that the bar will open Friday and Saturday, but with certain limitations. Ralph said: “While we respect our fellow bar owner’s stance on these issues, as the largest LGBTQ bar in Fort Worth, we are able to accommodate the standard health protocols set forth by the State of Texas Department of Health and Human Services. While we echo the concerns of the community during this time, my staff and I are in agreement that we can provide a place to gather as safely as possible while adhering to the guidelines. The Urban Cowboy Saloon will have a soft open on Friday, May 22, with an invite-only event. Saturday, May 23, will be by reservation only. Reservations can be made by messaging the bar via Facebook. Information on dates and limited hours beyond Saturday will be posted on The Urban Cowboy Saloon’s social media pages.”

UPDATED: According to a message from the management at The Grapevine bar, after meeting today, the staff there has decided as a team that they will not open on Friday, 

UPDATE: In a post on the Party at the Block page on Facebook, management for Caven Enterprises — which owns and operates Station 4/The Rose Room, JR’s Bar & Grill, TMC: The Mining Company and Sue Ellen’s — has confirmed that those bars will not be reopening on Friday: “While we are eager to reopen our bars to the public, we remain committed to doing our part to help stop the further spread of COVID-19. At this time, our bars will remain closed until it is best determined that we can provide the safest experience for all our guests and staff. We will all get through this together, and we can’t wait to serve everyone in our community again.”

UPDATE: Round-Up Saloon co-owner Keith Miller said Monday after Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement that he and the bar’s management team would meet to discuss the ramifications of the bar opening on Friday. Today the Round-Up management has announced that the club will not reopen this week: “After much evaluation and discussion, The Round-Up has decided that the prudent decision is for us to remain closed at this time. This decision was made out of an abundance of caution and an overriding concern for the health and safety of our team members and you, our customers. We will re-evaluate this decision on June 1. Please understand that we are anxious and excited for the day when we can again throw open our doors and welcome our friends and customers back. In the meantime, be safe and stay healthy.”

UPDATE: A spokesman for Dallas Woody’s Sports and Video Bar told Dallas Voice today (Tuesday, May 19) via Facebook Messenger, “While we feel safe to open now, we will wait until Tuesday, May 26.” The spokesman said the bar’s management will be posting a statement on Facebook soon.

UPDATED INFORMATION: Ron Nelson, the owner of Pekers Bar, told Dallas Voice that while social media initially indicated the bar would open on Friday, that information was not correct, and the bar will not be opening Friday.

“We have decided not to open until tentatively June 1st, and we will see what happens by then,” Nelson said.

Kevin Miller, co-owner of The Round-Up Saloon, shortly after the governor’s announcement today, said, “It’s very early still. We just got the information 30 minutes ago, and we will meet tomorrow to discuss what is our best option, our safest option for our employees, primarily, and for our customers.

“We would have to make sure that we have everything in order,” Miller continued, noting that there is a stringent set of guidelines bars will be required to follow. “What it all comes down to is that while we are thankful for the choice, we want to do it the right way,” he said.

At least two Oak Lawn area bars definitely won’t be opening, according to statements posted on their social media pages.

Alexandre’s owner Lee Daugherty told WFAA earlier in the day that his bar would not reopen until he is certain the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. “We want to make sure to do this right,” he told the TV station, “to make sure we can do this safe, not only for our guests in here, but for the workers as well. If  it’s not safe for either one of those, we’re just simply not going to open.”

And on the Alexandre’s Facebook page after Abbott’s announcement, Daugherty added, “We are coming back, don’t worry, but we are going to do this the right way. Stay safe, wash your hands and wear your mask.”

Dallas Eagle owner Jeffrey Payne concurred, saying in a statement posted to Facebook that his bar would also remain closed.

“Knowing this decision was about to be announced, and after much thought, the Dallas Eagle will remain closed, and I will reassess the situation on June 1,” Payne said via the Facebook post. “Money is not at stake. Our patrons’, my staff’s and my family’s lives and health are what is at stake. I do not take this decision lightly, but I listen to science, and so I believe it is the correct decision.”

Payne concluded, “Stay safe. Be smart. And we will see all of you soon.”

And for Harvey Meissner, president and CEO of The Hidden Door, the idea of opening this week is a complete nonstarter. “I think it is highly irresponsible for bars to open now,” Meissner said, noting that The Hidden Door — which is currently being completely remodeled with work set to be finished by the first week in June — is slated for a July 1 reopening date.

“Going out and drinking isn’t worth someone’s life,” Meissner said, adding that when the bar does reopen, he will require customers to wear masks.

Dallas Voice has contacted officials with Caven Enterprises, which operates Station 4/The Rose Room, JR.’s Bar and Grill, Sue Ellen’s and TMC:The Mining Company, and with The Urban Cowboy Saloon in Fort Worth, and were told that both companies are still assessing the situation and will make decisions on if and when to open after further meetings. We have also contacted officials with Club Reflection in Fort Worth but have not yet heard back from them.

Minimum Standard Health Protocals

The state has issued a three-page “checklist for bars or similar establishments” that detail steps bars will have to take to minimize the possibility for the spread of COVID-19. That list includes:

Health protocols for serving your customers

    • Customers should not be permitted to loiter at the bar or in commonly trafficked areas, and should remain seated at tables inside the bar.
    • Only provide service to seated individuals.
    • Parties should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other parties at all times, including while waiting to be seated [and while waiting to get in the bar].
    • Activities that enable close human contact, including but not limited to dancing, are discouraged.
    • Designate staff to ensure customers maintain a 6-foot distance between parties if customers are waiting to enter the bar or similar establishment.
    • A hand sanitizing station should be available upon entry to the establishment.
    • No tables of more than 6 people.
    • Ensure spacing of individuals within the establishment to keep a 6-foot distance between individuals in different groups.

*Tables or chairs must be installed to seat all customers to maintain social distancing and may not be moved.

* Consider positioning an unoccupied table or other object adjacent to each occupied table, creating space to permanently maintain a 6-foot distance between groups.

* Take orders from customers seated at a table or by web/phone application.

    • Contactless payment is encouraged. Where not available, contact should be minimized. Both parties should wash or sanitize hands after the payment process.


Health protocols for your facilities

    • Consider having an employee or contractor manage and control access to the bar or similar establishment, including opening doors to prevent attendees from touching door handles.
    • Physically block off the bar and remove or block bar stools so customers may neither sit nor stand at the bar itself.
    • Regularly and frequently clean and disinfect any regularly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, tables and chairs.
    • Regularly and frequently clean restrooms and document the cleanings.
    • Disinfect any items that customers contact.
    • Make hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water or similar disinfectant readily available to employees and customers.
    • Consider placing readily available signs at the bar or similar establishment to remind everyone of best hygiene practices.
    • Clean and disinfect the area used by customers (e.g. tables, chairs, etc.) after each group of customers departs, including the disinfecting of tables, chairs, stalls and countertops.
    • Clean and sanitize the bar daily.
    • For bars or similar establishments with more than 10 employees and/or contractors present at one time, consider having an individual wholly or partially dedicated to ensuring the health protocols adopted by the establishment are being successfully implemented and followed.
    • TABC staff should monitor bars throughout the state of Texas to ensure compliance with these protocols. 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.

(There is also a section on “Health protocols for your employees and contractors” that require bars to monitor employees and contractors for signs of illness, among other things.)

— Tammye Nash