Abilene bar owners relieved after Gov. Abbott allows reopening


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Bar owners in Abilene say they’re relieved after Governor Greg Abbott gave them the green light to open next week.

Unlike most bars in the Key City who will be reopening, those at KAO Lounge will be welcoming in guests for the first time.

“We used our time wisely and we used it to build,” said KAO Lounge co-owner Tim Smith.

Smith and his co-owner Colby Marcee took a leap of faith, breaking ground on a bar during a pandemic.

Unlike others though, Marcee says the timing actually worked out in their favor.

“We saw it as an opportunity,” said Marcee. “If COVID wouldn’t have happened, I would have still been working full time at Amendment 21 and this would have been on the back burner.”

They say the months of silence gave them a chance to get things in order.

The only problem was as soon as they were ready to ask customers questions like “Straight up?” or “On the rocks?” their business was left on ice.

“I didn’t understand the differences between the two, and how food deters COVID, that didn’t make any sense to me,” said Marcee.

That feeling changed during Abbott’s Wednesday announcement. Marcee says he knew it was a sure sign of a happy hour rush.

“While I was still watching it, I was talking to my wife and Tim came back over here and we started the game plan,” said Marcee.

“He’s started doing interviews, hired a bartender and a bar back, you know those are things without knowing when we are allowed to open,” said Smith.

The new order comes with guidelines, but Marcee says that’s really all they’ve been asking for.

It’s hope. That’s the main thing, is that we have hope now,” said Marcee. “Like, ‘Hey, let us do the same thing with the same regulations and guidelines that you’ve let everybody else do.'”

The final decision on opening is still up to County Judge Downing Bolls, but after an interview Wednesday, he seems to be on board with the idea as long as cases continue to drop.

KAO Lounge says if they can get everyone hired and trained, they are hoping to open by next weekend.

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