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Bar owners strike back against ‘armed men’ enforcing COVID shutdown in Texas

In Texas, a group of bar owners is legally contesting the right of the state to shut down bars under the government’s newest order, accusing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott of acting like a “king.”

“The lawsuits filed in Austin, Houston and Galveston allege Abbott doesn’t have the authority under the state constitution to make such an order, and that it targets bars while allowing other establishments, such as hair and nail salons and tattoo studios, to remain open,” says KERA radio news.

The governor ordered all bars to close and restaurants to lower occupancy to 50 percent on June 26 as increased COVID cases appeared due to increased testing. Naturally.

While COVID-positive cases have grown substantially, the Texas Medical Center has noted that cases of ICU treatment are of only moderate concern right now. Texas, with a population of 34 million, has had a fairly low fatality rate, holding steady-to-moderately down since April.

Yesterday, the state reported ten people died from complications due to COVID.

Bar employees, already struggling from the first round of COVID shutdowns, are reeling after the state’s newest order.

The Texas Tribune says that one bar owner, Ed Noyes, got seven text message about the state shutdown order.

“Three of the five bartenders at his Fort Worth establishment — plus his girlfriend — delivered the news: Malone’s Pub had to shutter immediately under the governor’s orders. His employees wanted reassurances: Would the business survive? Should they file for unemployment? What were his next steps?” reports the Tribune.

“We were just all in shock,” Noyes said.

Over 1,500 bars were inspected this week to make sure they were closed. In Houston alone, the fire chief says they have received 300 complaints about bars being open illegally or restaurants exceeding capacity limits.

One small businesses owner claimed that armed men came to shut down their family-owned restaurant.

“Last night two armed men from the TABC, operating under orders from Governor Greg Abbott, came in masks to shut down our family run business for 30 days,” says Claire Koch of the Stable Lobster House according to the Texas Scorecard.

“We are heartbroken. I have a [four]-month-old baby … We heard of the [g]overnor’s order as we were walking into our son’s baptism. With less than [three] hours’ notice before opening, we had already prepped thousands of dollars’ worth of food for the weekend,” added Koch.  

Koch says small businesses in Texas are facing “depression-like” economic conditions. The stress of COVID and the previous shutdown, combined with the latest action, means some businesses won’t make it.  

Shelly Luther, a salon owner who was arrested and jailed briefly for refusing to close under a previous shutdown order, and then released by the governor, said the Abbott is being hypocritical.

“If he is saying that he didn’t believe that I should be shut down, or I should be penalized or go to jail, then why is it okay to penalize these small-business owners that are bar owners as well? We all have to be treated equally. It’s all the same,” said Luther.

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