BOTTOMOF THE BARREL
During the most strict closures following the initial COVID-19 outbreak, mixed-beverage receipts in the Heights-River Oaks-Montrose area plummeted 92%. Since then, sales have been slowly recovering. SOURCE: TEXAS COMPTROLLER OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER 2019 2020
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As of press time, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo insisted against reopening bars despite nearly every neighboring county doing so, citing the indicators on the county’s threat level system. Even so, most bars have been able to reopen with food service permits. Bars and restaurants with liquor licenses in the Heights, River Oaks and Montrose area are slowly recovering, and as of August they are down 44% in sales compared to the same point last year, according to Texas beverage tax lings. As positivity rates dipped but then began to tick upward in Harris County in October, health experts advised con- tinued caution in the haste to reopen more gathering spaces. “Even if the numbers go in the right direction—which would be wonder- ful news—and these places are able to reopen, that does notmeanwe’re going back to the way it was before,” said Dr. Jill Weatherhead, the assistant profes- sor of infectious disease at the Baylor College of Medicine. Keeping tabs Abbott’s order allows bars to open with 50% capacity along with man- datory facial coverings when 6 feet of socialdistancingcannotbemaintained. “It’s time to open them up,” Abbott said in the Oct. 7 announcement. “If we continue to contain [COVID-19], then the openings, just like other busi- nesses, should be able to expand in the near future.” Bars previously opened for ve weeks in May and June but shut down again June 26 when coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surged. In August, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Com- mission allowed bars to reclassify as restaurants, allowing most to nd a way to open their doors. “It changes on us, so we take it week by week,” Moore said. “If you asked me two weeks ago, I might have said, ‘We’ll see; things might loosen up, and we might be able to open some of our patios in a couple weeks.’” Under the state’s new guidelines, any countywith under 15%of its hospi- tal capacity used by COVID-19 patients can apply to the TABC to reopen bars. Harris County’s COVID-19 capacity had been averaging 4% for at least two weeks as of Oct. 25, according to data published by the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council. During the July surge, that gure was over 30%. “The data guiding county deci- sion-making tells uswe are doingmuch
Harris County ocials are following a data-driven threat level system to guide their response to the coronavirus, which includes tracking hospitalization rates, test positivity trends and new cases.
SOURCE: HARRIS COUNTY COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
Indicator not met
HOSPITAL POPULATION TRENDS 14-day trend for COVID-19 hospital population must be in decline. COVID-19 hospitalizations are increasing.
14-day trend for new COVID-19 cases must be decreasing.
14-day average of COVID-19 test positivity rate must be below 5%
14-day trend of new cases is increasing by 16 cases per day.
14-day average of COVID-19 test positivity is 7.9%
OPEN BAR? Nearly every county in the region has opted to reopen bars under Gov. Greg Abbott’s guidance. Reopened Not open
better than we were a few months ago, butwe are still at the highest level: red,” Hidalgo said in a statement. “Indoor, maskless gatherings should not be tak- ing place right now, and this applies to bars, as well.” Amid the closures, many bar owners took the opportunity to adapt. Rebar in Montrose took on a remodel, adding kitchen facilities and rolling out Sun- day brunch service and other options. Barcode, also in Montrose, served as a neighborhood food pantry. Alba Huerta of Julep onWashington Avenue launched a to-go cocktail truck. “It was not easy, but we saw the opportunity and went for it,” she said. “It’s a good thing, actually, and we’re very blessed to actually be able to do some work.” Gatheringplaces Longtime bar owner Miggy Ramirez of Lola’s Depot in Montrose—with nearly 40 years in business—fears some bars that have opened are not being responsible, which could lead to fur- ther outbreaks. “Some people who get into the bar 14-day average of COVID-19 hospital and ICU population must be below 15%. COVID-19 patients make up less than 15% of general bed and ICU use.
14-day average of new cases in Harris County must be below 400.
14-day average of new cases is 425 cases per day.
business, theymight not have themost integrity. They just care about their cash ow and not so much about peo- ple,” he said. He said there is a compounded eect because the competition is limited, leading to more crowding. In late Octo- ber, four Houston bars were suspended over health protocols, according to a TABC news release. Capacity limits are crucial for indoor gatherings, but even then, the ideal sit- uation is outdoors with social distanc- ing, Weatherhead said. “If you insist on going out, rst weigh the risks and benets to you and your household but also the greater community,” she said. “Then call the restaurant or bar and ask them what they are doing to protect their workers and guests and do they have enough outdoor seating.” Meanwhile, owners who opt to remain closed suer, Ramirez said. “A lot of people, they’re bartenders for years, and their life savings goes to get a bar and keep it going. I’m afraid a lot of those may not make it, or worse, fewer will have that opportunity to
SOURCE: TEXAS ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE COMMISSIONCOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
even try,” he said. As for his bar, he is planning to revive a food truck and try patio service in the coming weeks. He said he is doing it to help give his customers a place to go. “This is a neighborhood bar; it’s like a family. … It’s also the biggest lit- tle watering hole for the whole city,” Ramirez said. “But I don’t want any- one getting sick. I don’t care about how much money I’m losing.”
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HEIGHTS RIVER OAKS MONTROSE EDITION • NOVEMBER 2020
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