Hair salons are reopening, dine-in patios are flourishing and public parks are being landscaped once again. Slowly but surely, we’re getting optimistic about what’s been a harrowing few months.
Still, there are precautions to take...which some bars throughout the Lone Star State just, apparently, didn’t feel like taking.
While the question about whether or not to keep states and the economy running business as usual is answered differently depending on who you talk to, one necessary safety measure is pretty much understood across the board: Practice social distancing.
The six-foot rule that’s become the standard for socializing since mid-March isn’t fun, it isn’t easy, but experts say it’s imperative to maintain the safety of ourselves and, more importantly, I think, those around us. But bars like Handlebar (Houston) and UnBARlievable (Austin), plus about 15 others, as of Tuesday, didn’t enforce the precaution...at all, really, based on photos and video obtained by the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC).
The TABC underwent an undercover investigation called Operation Safe Open to essentially keep an eye on the bars to make sure they were following the new rules. This, personally, is my favorite part of the situation and should be a warning to other bars already inviting guests in or getting ready to open up: Some of your customers are probably there just to see how many inebriated 20-somethings are in close enough proximity to fall on top of them during the course of the night. And then they’re going to tell on you.
While I can see how something like this seems way out of the realm of fairness to some, there’s also the argument that we’re all just doing what we can to get through this global issue, and it’s a team effort. Whether or not you think we should still be staying home or wearing masks or keeping gyms closed isn’t even quite the point anymore. What you do is your business, for sure, but the least we can do is respect the compromise: Go out and live your life, just do it safely.
Sure, it’s ultimately the responsibility of the guest, not necessarily the business, to respect social distancing -- it’s not like these bars are going to hire a Social Distance Specialist to walk around with a six-foot-long stick making sure groups are spread apart appropriately. But the truth of the matter is that humans are selfish beings, and most of us aren’t going to spend time getting ready, pregaming and heading out to the bar just to turn around upon finding that it’s more crowded than we’d thought. “It’ll be fine, we’ll be careful!” -- until you get lax, which is why it does come down to businesses and officials working together to curb the cockiness of society at large.
We’re seeing the same issue at beaches: Families pack a cooler, stock the beach caddy with sand toys, prep sandwiches, pick up snacks, douse their kids with sunscreen and sit in beach traffic for 35 minutes to enjoy a lengthy stay at the shore. Do you think they’re going to head home if they can’t find an exact six-foot area to set up shop in? Not likely, and that’s contributing to the domino effect we’re seeing play out.
It’s a capacity issue, is it not? In a normal setting, bars have a limit as to how many people can be inside at any given time so the fire marshal doesn’t come knocking at their door -- at least, that’s what the bouncers tell you while you beg, plead and bat your eyelashes at them. Capacities are safety precautions to prevent fire hazards...so, can’t we just pare down the capacity to prevent a different kind of hazard?
Which they did! To 50 percent in Texas for indoor spaces, but a capacity rule is only as effective as the people who enforce it. In this case, the TABC found that the many bars they shut down were using the rules as more of a guideline than a necessity, and they’ve appropriately been put in time out.
"Protecting the health and safety of Texans during this pandemic is our top priority," TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles said in a statement. "We warned businesses TABC will have no tolerance for breaking the rules, and now, some bars are paying the price. I hope other establishments will learn from these suspensions."
As of now, these select bars cannot serve alcohol for 30 days, but the TABC warns that second offenses will result in a suspension of double that amount of time. The bars aren’t happy, of course -- Barge 295 (Seabrook) posted on Facebook that they intend to appeal their license revocation, highlighting the fact that every bar-goer has the right to choose the situations they put themselves in.
Which is true, Barge 295...but you still need to follow the rules.