June 30, 2020
Luther Alliance Could Be Mistake for Bars
after High-Profile Governor Hoodwinking
By Mike Hailey
Capitol Inside Editor
Texas bar owners might have done themselves a major disservice on Tuesday with a statehouse rally starring Shelley Luther as the Dallas beautician who might be their single biggest potential liability in a push to reopen in the wake of a second statewide coronavirus closure.
The barkeeps who'd never taken the time to organize as a political force until now didn't realize that Governor Greg Abbott could be all the more determined to keep them shut down with Luther as the face of their new movement.
The old proverb `fool me once shame on you - fool me twice shame on me' is the easiest way to explain why Abbott is probably less likely to budge on bars than he might have been if Luther hadn't injected herself into their cause as America's most famous lockdown rebel.
Luther clearly has a stake in the drinking establishment industry as an independent entrepreneur who moonlights as a suburban nightclub singer. But Luther is still learning the ropes in her very brief experience as an overnight celebrity who might be more responsible than any singular person besides the governor himself for the COVID-19 resurgence that's transformed Texas into the largest hottest spot in the nation at the end of June.
Luther resurfaced at the demonstration against the bar shutterings several hours before the state recorded its worst day in the coronavirus crisis by far on Tuesday with a record 6,975 new cases and people hospitalized in Texas than any time since the initial outbreak four months ago.
Dallas County hit a high point for the fifth consecutive day in the number of new cases that it reported with 601 more positive tests. The virus crushed daily records in the Waco, Tyler and Odessa areas while the old mark fell in Johnson County on the southwestern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth area as well.
Harris, Bexar, Cameron, Jefferson, Ellis, Kaufman and Midland counties all recorded their second highest number of new cases on Tuesday.
But the tavern owners who protested in Austin today contended that the Republican governor had been punishing them unfairly amid their perceptions about being blamed for the second surge that's been far more intense and widespread than the first.
It's conceivable that the bars wouldn't have been closed again if Luther hadn't decided to open her Salon A la Mode in late April in a blatant violation of state emergency restrictions that she flaunted on social media and at anti-lockdown demonstrations. Luther had appeared to be all but begging Dallas County authorities to throw her in jail by repeatedly refusing to shut the shop down when they'd sought to enforce the order that Abbott had crafted with as many as 180 days in jail as a possible penalty for offenses.
The Luther lock-up sparked an uproar among hard-right Republicans like Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Attorney General Ken Paxton and other tea party crusaders. Empower Texans president Michael Quinn Sullivan helped lead the calls for Luther's release before the Texas Supreme Court ordered it after the salon owner spent the night in the slammer.
The chain of events that Luther's defiance triggered culminated in Abbott's watering down of the business closure order in a move that effectively and officially declared her behavior to be legal retrospectively as a violation of an emergency law that no longer existed in hindsight. .
The prospects for a Sullivan alliance with Luther won't help the bar owners cause either in the aftermath of an epic embarrassment that Empower Texans suffered when two of the top MQS associates were caught trashing Abbott and making his fun of his disability at the end of a podcast when they didn't know they were still being taped.
But Luther showed no signs of being daunted by any of it.
"It's not about the drink. It's not about the haircut. It's about being able to feed your families," Luther said. "A lot of the protesting that's going on about a lot of different things means the government's not doing what they're supposed to be doing, and we should all stand together as one and let the government hear our voice."