EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – El Paso law enforcement handed businesses in the Cincinnati entertainment district 27 citations and violations after opening their doors in late 2020.

An area typically known for social gatherings and late-night bar-hopping, ordinances related to the pandemic forced businesses to close early and limit capacity.

El Paso law enforcement regularly checked up on the businesses as patrons returned to the once lively establishments in the Cincinnati entertainment area. While patrons were able to return to some aspect of normalcy amid the pandemic, businesses were told to keep the city and county’s emergency orders in mind.

Warnings and citations mainly came between October through December as businesses throughout the city began to makeup for months of being closed.

Frank Ricci, the owner of Rockin’ Cigar Bar and Grill, said while the area received many citations, he doesn’t feel they were targeted by law enforcement.

“The area in itself, I think, has always been looked at by the TABC and also the El Paso Police Department as an area for entertainment and of course this is where the bars are,” Ricci said.

El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego still has not given the green light for bars to open, as El Paso’s hospitalization rate remains higher than 15%. However, bars have been allowed to open as long as they have converted to a food and beverage license and have most of food sales come from food sales, rather than alcohol.

Data from the Texas Secretary of State shows converted bars and restaurants across the county were turning in $7.6 million in mixed beverage receipts.

It was a big improvement from the much humbler $379,166 they all turned in during April. But business came at some cost for owners of establishments.

In the Cincinnati area, businesses were given warnings and handed citations for not abiding to mask-wearing, social distancing, not having headcounts and violations of the area’s emergency laws:

  • El Profe – 11 Citations and warnings for open after hours and no face mask
  • The Palomino Tavern – 4 citations and warnings for operating without a TABC, no headcount, no social distancing
  • Rockin’ Cigar Bar – 5 citations and warnings for not wearing a mask and emergency ordinance violations
  • Champagne Villain – 5 citations and warnings for allowing a customer outside with a bottle and social distancing, emergency ordinance violation
  • Good Times 2626 –  violated stay at home order

“As much as we’d like to get back to normal we can’t and its a little difficult,” Ricci said.

As KTSM previously reported, in early January, then-Mayor Dee Margo amended the City’s Emergency Directive Saturday afternoon, allowing restaurants to operate past 10 p.m. in accordance with Governor Abbott’s Order.

The directive would allows bars that have partnered with food trucks or opened kitchens to operate until the food trucks close or at 2 a.m., whichever comes first.

But now with less restrictions, it’s up to patrons to keep bar doors open by following emergency ordinance orders which continue limiting capacity in businesses, masks are enforced and social distancing.

“It seems to be getting a little bit more lax, a little bit, not crazy but it does seem like it’s a little more lax, people are thinking that we are getting back into our normal lives,” Ricci said.

The Kern Place Neighborhood Association issued a statement to KTSM 9 News saying problems have historically come from businesses outside of Cincinnati Avenue. And, said “The attitudes, actions, and non-actions of these other establishments are blatant forms of disrespect to the residents of Kern Place.”

The Kern Place Association said it supports police and TABC presence to better enforce current laws and ordinances in a stepped up effort to dampen the negative effects they believe bar patrons are having on nearby Kern Place residents. 

Businesses whose owners have lived in Kern Place (Palomino Tavern, Ardovino’s Pizza, Crave, G2, Fool’s Gold) understand our issues, seem to abide by the laws and ordinances, and have even contributed to hiring off duty police officers to patrol the common areas and into our neighborhood.  Historically, the issues in the area have been with the other establishments on, and around, the 200 block of Cincinnati Avenue.  The attitudes, actions, and non-actions of these other establishments are blatant forms of disrespect to the residents of Kern Place.

Kern Place Association

The Kern Place Association said it also conducted a survey of about 300 residents where 53% of responses of those who live within a quarter mile of the Cincinnati Entertainment District agree it is a “public nuisance”.

Ricci said he has noticed more violence in the area, as KTSM reported police responded to a stabbing in the area last week.