Bars throughout the region are reopening today to customers for the first time since March.

Some have live music scheduled for Friday night like Aero Crafters or Rummorhazit, which is hosting a “Straight Outta Quarantine” party.

At Dodge City Saloon, staff members have been doing more than just rearranging tables, disinfecting and navigating guidelines from Gov. Greg Abbott and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare to reopen, said general manager Carlos Salas.

Salas brought all of his staff back about three weeks ago to help with renovations he and his wife have been working on since bars were forced to close March 20 under orders from the governor.

COVID-19 cases by county

County Total Recoveries Deaths
Calhoun 41 31 3
Goliad 7 5 0
DeWitt 17 14 1
Jackson 17 14 1
Lavaca 11 5 1
Matagorda 69 42 5
Refugio 3 3 0
Victoria 159 137 7
Wharton 50 38 0
9-County total 374 289 18
•Editor’s note: These counts are updated daily.

A new stage has been added to the saloon, as well as a new bartop and bathrooms have been remodeled, he said.

“It is some things that we wanted to do,” he said. “We’ve been closed for over two months so the cash flow situation has definitely impacted plans. Rather than hiring somebody, me and my wife have been doing it.”

In January, Salas started planning to expand Dodge City Saloon by building a kitchen that will serve food alongside the bar. The expansion was slated to be completed by May 1, but was delayed because of the loss of income.

“A zero cash flow has made things a lot harder,” he said. “We’ll probably have it done by late June, depending on the permitting process.”

Salas said he felt a huge sense of relief when Abbott gave bars a date to reopen, after allowing restaurants, retail and other businesses to reopen sooner.

Bars, bowling alleys and aquariums are allowed to reopen at 25% capacity today, while restaurants can expand to 50% capacity.

“We’ve just been hoping we weren’t going to be a casualty of the pandemic,” he said. “We’ve had this place for about five years, and we’ve put everything we have into it.”

A sense of relief and excitement also filled Aero Crafters on Thursday, where employees disinfected the restaurant and bar and moved tables around to meet capacity and 6-foot distancing requirements.

Bars reopen for Memorial Day weekend

Mackenzie Hayward wipes down a wall at Aero Crafters.

While closed, Aero Crafters filled to-go orders, but they accounted for less than half of normal profits, said Chris McDowell, a managing partner at the bar and restaurant.

“It has been hard because we’ve only been able to sustain about 30% of our normal income with to-go orders and, you know, we haven’t been able to have all of our staff on,” he said. “So we’re thrilled to welcome Victoria back and all of our employees.”

Beau Buchholz, owner of Moonshine Drinkery, shared similar sentiment from his bar, where he and his employees have been preparing all week.

“I was never worried about Moonshine not coming back, but it does feel good to be able to be getting back and working toward getting going again,” he said.

Bars are allowed to reopen if they follow health guidelines, which including discouraging dancing and other close-contact interactions, keeping interactive areas like game rooms closed, limiting seated parties to six people per table, block off the bar so customers cannot sit there and providing disposable means, utensils and glasses.

The 25% capacity rule does not apply to outdoor patios, though social distancing guidelines do.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is tasked with making sure bars comply with guidelines. If they don’t, the commission has the ability to suspend bars’ licenses.

Buchholz said there was a rush to purchase beer and alcohol from distributors ahead of Friday.

“One of our main distributors is actually out of beer,” he said. “He stopped by yesterday to tell us he was completely out, but we were able to get everything we need as of now.”

More reopenings are scheduled for May 31, which will include youth summer camps and professional sports without spectators, including basketball, baseball, football, golf and softball, according to Abbott.

The reopenings are expanding as COVID-19 cases continue to mount in Texas, though no new cases were reported in the Crossroads on Thursday.

Two more patients with the coronavirus were reported as recovered in Victoria County on Thursday, leaving 16 of the county’s 157 cases still active.

The Victoria COVID-19 Hotline will end on Tuesday because of a reduction in call volume, said Caitlin Weinheimer, Victoria County’s chief of staff.

In place of the hotline, the Victoria County Public Health Department will take calls regarding any COVID-19-related public health issues during its regular business hours, she said.

Additionally, the public health department will no longer post COVID-19 updates on weekends unless warranted by particular situations, Weinheimer said.

COVID-19 cases by county

County Total Recoveries Deaths
Calhoun 41 31 3
Goliad 7 5 0
DeWitt 17 14 1
Jackson 17 14 1
Lavaca 11 5 1
Matagorda 69 42 5
Refugio 3 3 0
Victoria 159 137 7
Wharton 50 38 0
9-County total 374 289 18
•Editor’s note: These counts are updated daily.

Kali Venable is an investigative and environmental reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6558 or at kvenable@vicad.com.

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Investigative & Environmental Reporter

"I am a Houston native and 5th generation Texan, with a degree in journalism and minor in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin. I care deeply about public interests and the community I serve.”

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