Suzy Hutchins, a bartender at Down on Main Street Saloon in Baytown, will have to get used to seeing an empty bar while serving drinks as drinking establishments are allowed to reopen at 25 percent capacity and with a number of social distancing and sterilization protocols in place.

In Texas bars, bowling alleys, skating rinks and even some strips clubs reopened Friday as the state continues to gradually restart one of the world’s largest economies after it was ravaged by shutdowns caused by the coronavirus epidemic.

For the Baytown area, the local pub industry is just hoping to stay alive as Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this week ordered further easing of some state restrictions that had shuttered many venues for more than a month.

Down on Main Street Saloon owner Sylvia Hallum is happy to be open but is concerned with a possible future shut down if people don’t follow the social distancing orders.

“I don’t have take out and I rely on this 100 percent for my personal financial needs also,” Hallum said. “That’s what is really hard on me and other people. I don’t have managers here so my profit margin is probably a little higher than some of the bars so I can probably sustain a little bit more than the others I have talked to.”

Hallum has considered the possibility of a reopening leading to employees becoming sick but isn’t overly worried as local reports are minimal in terms of COVID-10 cases. 

“I’ve thought about it, but I am not concerned about it because I don’t personally don’t anyone who has it in Baytown,” Hallum said. “I don’t believe that it is a concern for me. I haven’t lost sleep over it.”

As of Friday, 102 cases had been reported in Baytown.

For drinking establishments, the rules are simple: No one can linger at or order from the bar, there are six-feet social distancing guidelines and sanitizer stations in place, no more than five people can sit at a table and only 25 percent capacity can be in the establishment.

Bartenders like Suzy Hutchins find the new protocols a bit frustrating not because of the safety importance, but just having to learn a new way of doing things.

“It’s weird: We are like a family here and we hung with each other and now we can’t even shake hands or fist bump,” Hutchins said. “We are doing what we are supposed to do because we want to stay open. We need to: All of us need to be open right now.

“Socializing is the biggest thing that everybody has missed.” 

Limelight Club owner Misty Guillot is also very pleased to get back to work.

“I am ecstatic,” Guillot said. “I missed my customers and being here and I love this place. I also have a family to take care of. I would say there is a little worry, but not enough for me to stay home. I worry more about my customers and my family.”

Guillot can allow 44 customers in her establishment at one time and said there are options to seat any overflow on outdoor patios since there are no rules put in place for the outdoor capacity while still trying to encourage social distancing expectations.

Guillot didn’t feel pressure to open, but more about just the ideal to get back at it.

“We were ready to go two weeks ago,” Guillot said. “We wanted to be open.”

She also noted that an adult establishment should see adults acting responsibly and stay home if not feeling well or not risk their own health.

“For me, I am fine and if I felt the need to put on a mask and I have one in my back pocket,” Guillot said. “I sterilize my hands like crazy, we use disposable cups and I feel we are doing things to prevent (spread).”

Guillot added if someone was in the establishment and showing signs of serious illness, depending on the severity and patron reaction, she would address the situation.

On Friday, the Texas Workforce Commission reported the state reached 12.8 percent unemployment in April, the highest monthly level since the state began recording the figures in January 1976.

Customers at Down on Main Street Saloon are focused on seeing friends and giving love to a local establishment.

“We are like a family here,” Michael McElveen said. “Granted we are social distancing it is what it is. I can still talk to someone I haven’t seen in three months. The bartenders are like family members. I feel safe. (Hallum) is making sure we are doing everything to follow the social distancing rules. We are here to support a small business. That’s what’s important.”

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(1) comment


Actually the rules for bartop service have changed per Gov. Abbott

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