June 29, 2020
Two Texas Bars Get 30 Days for One Night
of Daring Governor in Costly Muscle Flex
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
A couple of Texas businesses might be sorry if they took the advice of a Republican state lawmaker who's been promoting anarchy after losing their state alcohol licenses for 30 days with decisions to open on Friday night in violation of Governor Greg Abbott's latest coronavirus order.
State Rep. Briscoe Cain of Deer Park had encouraged bars to ignore the emergency directive that had shuttered them for the second time in three months as a response by the governor to a new COVID-19 wave that's turned Texas into the nation's pandemic epicenter.
"If I owned a bar I would open it," Cain declared on Facebook on Friday after Abbott pulled the plug on bars with a mandate that ordered them to close at noon that day.
A second-term representative who's been a tea party champion, Cain is an attorney who represented Dallas hair shop owner Shelley Luther in a legal clash that landed her in jail for two days early last month for reopening her business in defiance of the original Abbott closure order.
But the drinking establishments Outlaws Longview and the Whiskey Girl in Abilene could use Cain's counsel if they followed his recommendation on openly ignoring coronavirus crisis emergency law after having their state permits suspended by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission this weekend.
The TABC dispatched agents to 628 bars on Friday night when they found 30 that were still doing business despite the governor's edict that morning. Twenty-eight of the targeted bars agreed to comply with the temporary law by closing immediately while the dissident watering holes in Abilene and Longview refused to do so and will pay a steep price now as a result.
The Whiskey Girl's owner said the West Texas bar was "discussing our options and weighing out the pros and cons with our lawyer" with plans to follow the law in the meantime. The Abilene saloon and the East Texas counterpart that's also had its liquor permit pulled down could be test cases in a lawsuit that a group called the Texas Bar Owners & Nightclub Alliance was poised to file today in attempt to have the Abbott order overturned.
But Outlaws owner Melissa Lynn Kelly has already declared a war of words aimed at Abbott - having unleashed a scalding assessment of the governor's "bullshit orders" on Facebook on Sunday when she demanded an apology from Abbott.
"YOU, have painted a picture of dirty little hole in the walls to the public...placing blame on us, and that's a fact that you can not deny, you blame bars for the repeat climb in covid numbers and for the truth to be known, we have some of the cleanest establishments in Texas," Kelly vented. "These bars that you so easily blame, they are our home away from home, actually my bar is cleaner than my house, our bars are our homes, truth is some of our people do consider it their home, and we take pride in our homes. I understand that you are ignorant to that fact simply because you hide behind that desk and send others to do your dirty work, you find it okay to lead the public to believe that we operate infested little business that has caused covid around the globe."
Kelly invited the governor to Longview for a tour of her establishment and a glimpse of the industry that she says he's destroying. "So get off your high horse and put on some working mans shoes and go see the facts cause we aren't dirty covid infested bars," she added.
But TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles had lauded the bars that obeyed the law and aren't facing disciplinary action now as a result.
"We want to thank bar owners across the state who are making great sacrifices to protect their fellow Texans," Nettles said. "We know bar and restaurant owners have been suffering mightily throughout this pandemic. By taking these extraordinary steps to limit capacity and close doors, lives will be saved and we can increase the chances of successfully reopening businesses in the future."