Bexar County bar owners awaiting reopening date from governor say they’re feeling discouraged, frustrated

No announcements made on when bars can reopen yet

San Antonio – Bexar County bar owners want a set date and plan from the state to be able to continue operating their businesses.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced the reopening of some nonessential businesses this week, but bars were not included in that plan.

Aaron Pena, who owns The Squeezebox bar, opened the door to his business that’s been closed for 52 days on Wednesday.

“It’s a little strange to walk into an empty bar when we’re kind of used to being a vibrant neighborhood spot,” he said.

He said he understands that safety is essential, but so is making money and providing an income for his 17 employees.

“It has been a little frustrating in the sense that we are eager to get back to business. It’s just that we want to do it safely in a timely way,” he said.

Across town, near the airport, Tony Keogh, who owns Main Street Bar, said money isn’t coming in, but bills and rent payments are still piling up.

“I’ve really been hoping for an actual date. ‘You’re going to be able to open on this day,'" he said about the governor’s announcements.

Keogh has been renovating his business, trying to keep his mind off the closure. He said he thinks that, at this point, people know the importance of safety.

“The way I feel, if you're old enough to be in here, you should be able to make an educated decision about how to keep yourself safe,” Keogh said.

The governor has asked for feedback from bar owners on a plan and approach for reopening the establishments. But with more than 1,100 mixed beverage bar permit holders in Bexar County alone, a one-size-fits-all approach might not work for everyone.

Restaurants and other businesses are allowed to reopen at 25% capacity, Abbott said. But for Pena, this model isn’t financially profitable.

“It would be incredibly hard for me to serve 25 people efficiently and in a way that would be profitable for us," Pena said.

Keogh says he could make it work.

“Twenty-five people in here is a decent amount, and we still can have people outside. Also, everyone can still mingle safely,” he said. “I think we would be OK. Some bars may not.”

According to the City of San Antonio Health Transition Team’s report, the risk of contracting the virus in bars is higher than in restaurants and retail.

Bar owners said they’re ready to be back in business now, and the longer they wait, the harder it will be on their businesses to get off the ground.

“We’ll be in tune with what everybody’s saying and what everybody thinks is the best route to go,” Pena said.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.


About the Authors: