‘They’ve broke me completely:’ Abilene bar owner laments impending closure due to COVID-19 restrictions

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – The COVID-19 pandemic has served Homer’s bar in north Abilene a future on the rocks as forced closure under Governor Abbott’s executive order appears imminent.

Tuesday marked the seventh consecutive day Trauma Service Area D, which contains Taylor County and the Big Country, had a COVID hospitalization out of total hospital capacity rate that exceeded 15%.

Under Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32, businesses must now roll back occupancy from 75 to 50% and bars must close. For Homer’s bar owner Homer Winkles, closing is an act he’s unfortunately too familiar with.

“I’ve been closed already for 5 and a half months this year. I still have to pay rent, utilities,” said Winkles.

Winkles says he managed to reopen in the fall after taking out a small business loan – the repayment of which he heavily mentioned. While some local watering holes have adapted operations by selling food, declaring themselves restaurants and no longer bars, the barman of more than 40 years says that’s a path he just can’t afford to take.

“If I do buy a food license, my renewal comes up in March, then I have to come up with another $650,” said Winkles.

Homer’s bartender Christina Rhodes is concerned that if the bar closes a second time, it may never reopen. She even took to Facebook to plead with state and local leaders to consider not closing bars.

“I have four children I provide for and I’m a full-time student as well. It’s scary, I don’t want to lose my job again,” said Rhodes.

A weighty point of contention for Rhodes and Winkles is that while their establishment will be closed, patrons will likely move on to drink at Abilene eateries, possibly further spreading COVID-19.

“These bar goers are going to go restaurants and sit there at the bar for a few hours. It’s really no difference,” said Rhodes.

The only action Winkles and Rhodes can take now is wait and hope a second round of closing doesn’t tap out their livelihoods.

“All my resources are gone. They’ve broke me completely,” said Winkles.


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