Dallas Dive Bars Respond to Missing Out on To-Go Drinks and the Complications of Reopening

When restaurants and drinking places were forced to close their dining rooms and bars in March due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, part of the Texas disaster declaration allowed restaurants to sell take-away alcohol. It was a big break for her.

Margaritas and quarantine survival kits with liquor bottles were photographed in their best Sunday form and posted on Facebook pages. As we reported last week, places like Rusty Taco said the financial rewards of selling takeaway liquor played a crucial role. The associated food orders enabled them to reinstate employees on leave.

However, bars – establishments that make 51% of their profits from selling liquor – are not allowed to sell take-away or take-away. They just had to close. Some of Dallas’ most revered pubs, such as Lee Harveys, The Grapevine, Tradewinds Social Club, and Ship’s Lounge, were not given permission to sell drinks in any form, not even to run out of inventory.

“Take-away cocktails would have been incredibly helpful. If we had been able to generate income from existing inventory, we would have had solid, stable income over the past few months,” says Michelle Honea, co-owner of The Grapevine Bar. ” And we’ve been denied permission to do that over and over again. ”

“We welcome an opportunity to reopen. The sooner the better for us. “- Justin DiBernardo, Tradewinds Social Club

However, Timm Zbylut, the general manager at Lee Harvey’s, used the downtime to update his seat and saw little value in selling take-away drinks.

“Opening Lee Harveys to sell take-away drinks or take-away food would not have been a financially beneficial concept,” says Zbylut. “Working with fellow bar owners who have opened to take-out orders, Lee Harvey believes staying closed was the right decision.”

Justin DiBernardo, General Manager of Tradewinds Social Club, worked with Mayhem BBQ and Catering during the shutdown and hosted a weekly food and beer pop-up. He said it allowed them to sell most of their inventory and gave them a chance to chat with some regulars. They also sold merchandise and “Corona Bucks” for future use.

And now, as Texas is gradually reopening, the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance is pushing for drinking places to reopen gradually.

In a press release on Friday, May 8th, they urged Governor Abbott to allow bars to open gently on May 15th. They then suggested that bars open at 50% capacity on May 18, followed by June 1 at full capacity. It remains to be seen if Governor Abbott will allow this (we will update if we hear something).

Regardless of the state’s timeline, Ship’s Lounge takes it week after week. You said the management meets weekly to decide what is best to do.


Lowest-Lowest Greenville Ship Lounge (at Christmas Time)

Taylor Adams

The goat’s manager, Adam Testa, says whether it is a soft opening or a 50% capacity opening: “It would be good to get back to work as soon as possible, provided our customers are safe and employees can be ensured and sustained in an office in a sensible manner. ”

Lee Harvey looks forward to seeing familiar faces again, but only when it’s safe.

“We look forward to getting back to normal and opening up again. We take the safety of our employees and customers seriously, so we agree with the soft opening and the other guidelines that apply to returning to normal business operations, ”says Zbylut.

For the Tradewinds Social Club it is beneficial to be a pub.

“We welcome an opportunity to reopen. The sooner the better for us, ”says DiBernardo. “For the most part, it is a bit unusual for us to reach a capacity of 50% and more. With the status of “pub” we tend to have more mild nights than busy ones. While we are fortunate enough to host some large events throughout the month, our customers are for the most part socially distant. ”

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The Grapevine Bar is more careful. Michelle Honea says 25% capacity doesn’t make sense to her and even 50% challenges the logistics. She points out that in a restaurant people sit in one place, but in a bar they mix.

“How do you do that and monitor a constantly fluctuating occupancy?” Says Honea. “How do you drink with a mask? How do you make sure the people waiting to get in practice social distancing? And how do you do all of this with reduced capacity, increased costs and still give our customers the experience they deserve and protect our employees? ”

Unfortunately, there is no playbook about bar reopening and social distancing in places where people mostly do just the opposite. Each bar faces its own challenges based on space and logistics.

“Our employees are too valuable to take a risk if they open a few weeks early. We have come so far, and have already sacrificed so much, that we fail to take the proverbial 90-yard shot and stop short of the target can.” Says Honea. “But if the goal is to open at 50% capacity, we can comfortably take that first step next month.”

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