Bar owners ask for lifeline from governor’s office as bills continue to pile up

'Bar owners are desperate and struggling to survive,' businessman says

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio area bar owners are pleading for relief from the state amid mounting bills after Gov. Greg Abbott shut down all bars and restaurants that make more than 51% of their sales through alcohol sales at the end of June.

San Antonio bar owner in financial bind amid COVID-19 pandemic

Greg Barrineau, the owner of Drink Texas, said bar owners have been struggling to pay their rent, mortgages and personal bills because of the lack of revenue.

“Bar owners are desperate and struggling to survive,” Barrineau said.

Barrineau serves on the board of the Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance. He said the organization recently hired a lobbyist to pressure state leaders to take action to help the only businesses left unopened.

“What we’ve heard through state representatives is that the governor is very comfortable with the bars being closed to the end of the year,” Barrineau said.

Joe Martinez owns R&J Saloon, R&J Music Pavilion and Joey’s Sports Bar. He said he was OK financially, but the closure has forced him to take out a loan that he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to pay.

“We gotta get loans now to survive, but we’re not even given a chance to make money back to pay those loans back,” Martinez said. “How do we make our dollar? What’s the governor going to do to help me pay my bills?”

Michael Specia, the owner of the Highlander Bar & Grill, said he’s been operating as a restaurant, but because of the state’s rules, he’s out of business. He said he feels there’s a double standard on which liquor-serving businesses can stay open. He thinks the system favors big chain restaurant bars.

“I don’t understand why they’re picking on the little guy,” he said.

All three owners say they have applied for city, county and federal assistance programs. Some got lucky, but the money only lasted a couple of weeks, while others are still waiting.

The bar owners are pleading the governor to take quick action, or they will sink.

“Please let us open, even if it’s at 25% occupancy,” Barrineau said. “We’ll be happy to open at 25% occupancy. We will practice all the safety measures and everything that any restaurant bar does. We will take care of business. We will do it right. And we will protect our customers.”

KSAT reached out to the governor’s office to see if there’s a timeframe for when the bars might reopen or a plan to help them financially. We have not yet heard back.

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