San Antonio bar, restaurant cited for ‘gross negligence’ after violating emergency orders for COVID-19

Owner says contractor dispute led to security walking out of establishment Saturday night

(The Well Bar in San Antonio)

SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio issued two citations to a popular Northwest Side restaurant and bar this weekend for violating the state’s COVID-19 orders and for “gross negligence” of the local emergency declaration currently in effect.

The Well, located in the 5500 block of UTSA Boulevard, was informed of the citations on Monday, according to a city spokesperson Ximena Copa-Wiggins. The citations carry up to a $1,000 fine.

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Copa-Wiggins told KSAT the city received complaints via social media and saw videos that showed overcrowding at The Well, which is partially outdoors, on Saturday evening.

The city contacted the owner of The Well on Monday to verify the date and nature of the videos, and the owner confirmed there were issues on Saturday evening, Copa-Wiggins said.

“It’s horrible. Absolutely horrible. I was angered by what I saw on the tape, not just for just the blatant disregard for the well-being of other people, including those that were in that establishment, but also on behalf of all the other small business owners in this community that are trying to do it the right way,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said at the city’s COVID-19 briefing on Monday evening. “I’m glad that they were cited. The promoter will be cited and additional enforcement will happen as necessary.”

Enforcement data showed there were three separate calls to the city’s hotline on Saturday to complain about the bar.

One call stated the venue was exceeding maximum capacity and not following guidelines. Another call stated individuals were not social distancing or wearing masks, which was shown in some of the videos circulating on social media.

The data showed officer and enforcement teams were dispatched to the location and determined at that point, all ordinances were being followed and within occupancy limits. Copa-Wiggins said it was unclear when officers were dispatched.

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Copa-Wiggins said these are the first citations The Well has received. Further violations will result in closing down the business and losing its liquor license.

Chris Porter, a spokesperson for the Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission, said the TABC has been made aware of reports about The Well and made contact with the business owners to discuss corrective measures.

Porter said when TABC agents find an establishment endangering the health and safety of patrons, it resolves to fix the issue or work to suspend the business’ liquor permit.

KSAT reached out to The Well for comment. Owner Lauren Stanley said the issue Saturday evening stemmed from a dispute between an event promoter and a hired security company.

“Instead of waiting to settle the issue until after closing, the security company and its 10 staff members walked off the job,” Stanley said in the statement to KSAT-12.

Stanley said at the time, there was a line of people waiting to get inside and no security staff there to manage the situation.

“Once we realized what had happened, our restaurant managers worked as quickly as possible to put an internal security detail together, but our response as a team fell short. We are committed to doing better. We take full responsibility, have hired a new security company, and put new procedures into place to ensure we are in compliance with local and state regulations at all times,” Stanley said.

Stanley said The Well wants the general public and others in the food and beverage industry to know the bar takes “COVID-19 very seriously and are doing everything in our power to adhere to the requirements that allow us all to be open at this time.”

Bars in Texas have been closed down for more than a month under an order from Gov. Abbott but restaurants that serve alcohol remain open at limited capacity.

Venues can classify as a restaurant instead of a bar if 51 percent of sales receipts are from food sales.

Nirenberg said the city will deploy a proactive inspection team in areas that are deemed to be troublesome.

“We’re not going to wait anymore. No more warnings. We’re going to shut them down if necessary,” Nirenberg said.

Concerned citizens can call 210-207-SAPD (7273) to report a bar or restaurant not following safety protocols. They can also email or call 1-888-THE-TABC.

About the Author

RJ Marquez is the traffic anchor/reporter for KSAT’s Good Morning San Antonio. He also fills in as a news anchor and has covered stories from breaking news and Fiesta to Spurs championships and high school sports. RJ started at KSAT in 2010. He is proud to serve our viewers and be a part of the culture and community that makes San Antonio great.

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