Local bar says some businesses use loophole to stay open amid executive order

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)–A local bar in East El Paso said it’s not fair with how some businesses are conducting under Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order, which shut down bars on June 26.

The owner of Border City Alehouse, Anthony Duncan, said some businesses which are registered as restaurants are functioning as bars.

“A number of places have a brand new permit that are really bars that are operating as restaurants,” Duncan said.

Duncan is also a member of the El Paso chapter of the Texas Restaurant Association. He explained there are two licenses for businesses in Texas, red signs and blue signs, which determine if it is a restaurant or bar.

“If you have a red sign you’re considered a bar and your sales of alcohol are over 51 % of what your gross sales are,” Duncan said. “If you are a blue sign supposedly you sell 51 % of your sales from food.”

In Governor Abbott’s order, those businesses making more than half their money from alcohol are forced to close.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said those restaurants that are open must follow CDC guidelines and are only allowed to open at 50% capacity.

“What we don’t want to see happening is locations basically operating as bars even though they are restaurants, we want to make sure those operating still maintain social distancing,” Chris Porter, TABC, said.

Duncan said some restaurants are functioning as bars because despite having the blue license. He said they close the kitchen early but keep the bar open which is a violation of TABC’s guidelines.

“There’s a couple places on Far East that are bending the law per say, they wanted to do food when they opened up but they’re doing really well with alcohol right now,” Duncan said.

According to Duncan, a new business can add a kitchen and apply to the TABC and say they will make most sales from food, meaning they receive the blue sign.

“Then what happens is for the first two year,s cause thats how long the license is for, you can sell almost 100 % alcohol at that time until you have to report again,” Duncan said.

Border City Alehouse is currently operating as curbside only but said it’s barely enough to sustain the business.

Duncan said those restaurants which don’t follow the order risk spreading COVID-19 and he fears restaurants will be next to close.

“You got to wear masks, you got to wash you hands and social distance and if you don’t do it then its just going to make it worse for everyone on the long term,” Duncan said.

The TABC said it’s investigated nearly 5,000 bars and/or restaurants across Texas, including El Paso, over the last three weekends for possible violations.

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