Abilene business owners struggling as bars, breweries remain closed

KRBC News

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Texas bars and breweries are struggling to keep their businesses alive after shutting down for a second time due to the pandemic.

“This is a business that I built and it’s been taken away from me unfairly and unlawfully as far as I’m concerned,” says Coy Chew, owner of The Whiskey Girl.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended the Whiskey Girl’s liquor licenses last month when Chew tried to stay open after the governor’s orders to close.

“By TABC we could open today by 3 o’clock but the governor is saying ‘no you can’t.’ The suspension is over but to try and fight it again I would be looking at possibly a 60-day suspension or my license being taken away, so as far as that goes, I don’t think there is any fight left there,” says Chew.

With zero income, Chew says they are cutting costs where they can.

“Any refrigerators we don’t need right now we’ve got unplugged and cleaned out. Any neon sign that don’t need to be on right now is all unplugged to save that couple of extra pennies a month on our electric bill,” says Chew.

The owners over at Sockdolager brewery were told they could use their patio for people to enjoy to-go drinks.

“Just the one night that we got to do it essentially quadrupled our business. It was huge for us and then that night we also got the email that said ‘Hey actually that’s not for you. You don’t get to do this,'” says James Bridwell, one of the owners at Sockdolager.

Bridwell says TABC changed their Temporary Modification of Licensed Premises (TMLP) guidelines, excluding bars and breweries.

“They said it wasn’t intended for us. It was it was intended for restaurants who are already open, so they can add outdoor space to their property to allow them to do more business outside,” says Bridwell.

Both owners say they’re just looking for a straight-forward answer.

“The government is blaming TABC. TABC is saying ‘Hey we’re doing our job, you told us to enforce this stuff.’ Nobody wants to speak up, everybody agrees it’s wrong but nobody wants that on their resume that they were the first trailblazer to call the governor out, so unfortunately just gets passed around until we’re all either too broke or too depressed to keep fighting,” says Chew.

“We want the state to pick a narrative. Either masks work and let us open or they don’t work and shut everything. That’s the hardest part right now, the picking and choosing of who gets to open and who doesn’t. Its driving us crazy along with that we have no information on when you’ll get to open again,” says Bridwell.

Under the governor’s orders, only restaurants whose gross alcohol sales comprise less than 51 percent of total business are allowed to be open.


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