STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Texas and Florida bar owners closing their doors a second time fear crushing impacts

The Houston bars Scott Repass co-owns had been open about three weeks before the governor shut down their business again in response to a surge in new...

Posted: Jun 29, 2020 4:01 AM
Updated: Jun 29, 2020 8:30 PM

The Houston bars Scott Repass co-owns had been open about three weeks before the governor shut down their business again in response to a surge in new coronavirus cases.

In the short time they were open, Repass says staff followed safety guidelines to a T: they required customers wear masks when moving around. They offered hand sanitizer at the door. Bartenders and servers wore masks. Nobody congregated and almost nobody used cash. But that didn't prove to be enough.

Unsure of how long this second hit may last, Repass has now filed for unemployment. And he's not alone.

Bar owners across the state and in other parts of the country that were forced into a second shutdown say they don't know what this time around may look like -- and whether they'll be able to survive it.

In a news release Friday announcing bars should close again, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, 'It is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars.' The move comes after bars were allowed to reopen on May 22, under the state's second phase of reopening.

Orders to close bars in several US hotspots come as some healthcare professionals have called crowded bar scenes across the country the perfect breeding grounds for the virus.

At least 85 people contracted coronavirus after visiting an East Lansing, Michigan, bar earlier this month. In Louisiana, health officials say they've received at least 100 reports of positive cases from people who visited or worked at Tigerland bars in Baton Rouge.

At least one Idaho county moved back a stage in reopening, announcing bars and nightclubs would not be allowed to remain open after many of the state's new cases were associated with people who reported having a night out. And in California, the governor ordered bars closed in seven counties Sunday, days after saying an increase in cases was driven by young groups and gatherings.

Round two for devastated Florida bars

When cases began surging across Florida, the Volstead bar in downtown Jacksonville shut itself down to conduct another deep cleaning, the bar's marketing director Hana Ferguson said. All staff members were tested for the virus, she added, and were cleared.

'We barely survived the first shutdown and once we were allowed to re-open in Phase 2, were very strict about following all CDC guidelines,' Ferguson said. 'We've struggled with making ends meet especially with all of the rules that have been put in place.'

And now they had no choice but to close their doors a second time after on-premise alcohol consumption was suspended in bars across Florida.

Bars and nightclubs were ordered closed in mid-March. As most counties in Florida entered the second phase of reopening on June 5, bars were allowed to reopen, maintaining a 50% seating capacity inside.

In an emergency order issued last week, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation announced bars could still sell alcohol to-go in sealed containers. The department said restaurants were allowed to continue serving alcohol.

'All they did was flip the switch,' says Paul Medrano, who owns two bars in Tampa. 'So now you're going from a bar to a restaurant that acts like a bar, so you're not diminishing the people that might get infected because all they're doing is moving them to another location.'

'None of this makes sense,' Medrano says.

Much like the other bars CNN spoke to, Medrano says staff worked to enforce all safety precautions, even providing masks for incoming customers who didn't have one and keeping distances of at least six feet between each table. But he says that wasn't the case in all institutions.

'It was, to me, the offenders,' the bar owner says, of what caused the second shutdown. 'It's kind of like elementary school. One person breaks the rules and everybody has to pay for it.'

The financial impacts

Behind each adjustment states had to make to combat further spread of coronavirus, bar owners say was a devastating financial impact.

Staff members are struggling to make a living, Ferguson says.

'For them, this is their career. They're risking everything to come back to work' only to be forced out, she said.

But there's also the money used to keep the business alive.

Repass, from Houston, says when their bars were first shut down during the initial lockdown, they spent thousands ordering the right equipment to be able to sell their products to-go. They trained their servers and bartenders to a whole different business model.

Then, when the state began lifting measures and bars were directed to open, Repass says the bars poured more money into creating pleasant patios for customers to sit outside, as health officials were recommending. They retrained their staff.

And now, with piling costs and tax deadlines looming, Repass just says he hopes his state has at least hit its peak of new cases -- a sign that would mean things could start getting better soon.

Medrano, in Tampa, doesn't see this second shutdown lasting for less than two weeks.

'I would say, my guesstimation is going to be a month, a month and a half and that ... that's going to be pinch,' Medrano said.

'It's going to hurt.'

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 135142

Reported Deaths: 1832
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah28678460
Washington18867175
Marion16394242
Clackamas11789138
Lane8467110
Jackson700485
Umatilla685671
Deschutes507339
Yamhill322846
Malheur316453
Linn314949
Polk249240
Klamath246944
Josephine178535
Benton174314
Jefferson171225
Douglas170943
Union112516
Wasco109123
Columbia105418
Lincoln100417
Hood River96121
Coos95215
Morrow94510
Clatsop6925
Crook62911
Baker5765
Tillamook3692
Curry3235
Lake2365
Grant2131
Harney1784
Wallowa973
Gilliam511
Sherman470
Wheeler201
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3074812

Reported Deaths: 35060
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles103873814416
San Bernardino2569141560
Riverside2510002676
San Diego2185552174
Orange2165092508
Santa Clara949051129
Kern87240572
Fresno83200968
Sacramento811831128
Alameda68649788
Ventura62774462
San Joaquin58843788
Contra Costa53349460
Stanislaus43121766
Tulare42186515
Monterey36464255
San Mateo32887309
San Francisco29502266
Solano25983107
Santa Barbara25405243
Imperial25333474
Merced24570316
Sonoma24184242
Kings19588148
Placer17490184
San Luis Obispo16056140
Madera13528151
Santa Cruz12461113
Marin11732159
Yolo10789138
Shasta9750123
Butte9528128
El Dorado788649
Sutter782879
Napa767244
Lassen519916
San Benito500346
Yuba499627
Tehama433244
Tuolumne340340
Nevada323474
Mendocino319232
Amador302431
Lake262531
Humboldt242725
Glenn194820
Colusa17969
Calaveras162123
Siskiyou145713
Mono11244
Inyo98329
Del Norte8672
Plumas5895
Modoc3853
Mariposa3464
Trinity3044
Sierra820
Alpine730
Unassigned00
Medford
Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 49°
Brookings
Mostly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 50°
Medford
Partly Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 49°
Medford
Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 49°
Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 45°
One final mostly dry and mild day
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events