El Paso bar owners reopen as restaurants under new licensing approval

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)– After being shut down for at least a month, some local bar owners can finally reopen their businesses, but not quite as a bar.

As KTSM previously reported, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order shutting down bars in June in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. That directed towards bars and establishments with more than 51 percent of sales coming from alcohol.

To qualify for a restaurant license, bars must apply for a food and beverage certificate from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Upon approval, the businesses can open as a restaurant but must follow strict restrictions.

For example, the bars must have a full kitchen and at least ten menu items. Customers must order food with their alcoholic beverages.

“Then you take pictures of the restaurant, the kitchen the menus and send a copy of that in and also an affidavit you have to get notarized,” Border City Ale House owner, Anthony Duncan, said.

Also, sales must be at least 40 percent from food, or at keep sales from alcohol under 60 percent.

Border City Ale House reopened on Wednesday. Duncan said under the restrictions it’s just about getting business back up-and-running again.

“The intention is to get people back to work again and give these guys something to do,” Duncan said.

He said some people don’t want to order food in order to drink alcohol, but said those people are turned away if they don’t comply.

“We don’t allow someone to come in and do an order of chicharrones and do ten beers and ten shots and leave with 5 percent beer 95 percent alcohol on their tab,” Duncan said.

Bars reopening with a restaurant license must also shut the bar when the kitchen closes, otherwise it is a violation of the order.

Another local bar owner, Justin Kauffman, said some people even thought his bars were in violation because they did not realize he relicensed his businesses as restaurants.

Kauffman owns three bars in El Paso. El Rey Muerto, El Paso Drafthouse, which are open as restaurants, and Back 9 Lounge which is currently still closed.

He said he opened his doors to business after complying with the TABC’s rules.

“They did ask for pictures of the menu and kitchen just to make sure it was legit,” Kauffman said.

As per Governor Abbott’s orders, restaurants can only function with 50 percent capacity.

Kauffman said his businesses have been under a close watch by enforcement.

” I had TABC, fire marshall, code compliance, sheriff, EPPD and someone undercover, that’s how crazy it’s been,” Kauffman said.

TABC said 36 businesses in West Texas have requested to change their status to a restaurant. For more information on how to start the process, you can reach out to your local TABC office or, CLICK HERE.

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