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Gov. Greg Abbott's Order To Close Bars 'Inadvertently' Shut Down 1,500 Texas Restaurants

THE COLONY, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - House parties, large gatherings and crowded bars have been called out by Texas health officials as part of reason for the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

As a result, last week Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to close.

The Governor's order, however, also forced the closure of more than 1,500 Texas restaurants that are defined as "bars" in the executive order.

According to the Texas Restaurant Association, the closure of these restaurants has put 35,000 employees out of work.

"What needs to change is correctly defining what a restaurant is," said Ian Vaughn, the owner of Lava Cantina in The Colony.

Lava Cantina
Lava Cantina in The Colony (CBS 11)

Last Saturday as a part pf an enforcement operation, two TABC officers entered Lava Cantina and told Vaughn he had 45 minutes to get everyone out and close.

Vaughn said he tried to show the TABC officers his business was only at 30% capacity and was following all of the requirements for a restaurant.

It did not matter.

A TABC spokesperson said Lava Cantina was in violation of Governor Abbott's order which requires that bars suspend in-person service.

Vaughn complied but insists his business is not a bar but a restaurant.

In 2017, the requirements in Texas for a food and beverage certificate changed from a 51% alcohol sales cut-off to a 60% alcohol sales cut-off but Governor Abbott used the 51% threshold in his order.

The Texas Restaurant Association said many of restaurants exceed the 51% threshold simply because they sell higher-end wine or cocktails, not because they operate like a bar.

The day before his business was shutdown, Vaughn contact city officials to ensure he was compliant with his restaurant license and able to operate.

The Colony's assistant city manager, Tod Maurina, said, "We've always handled Lava Cantina as a restaurant that's how their liquor license is structured. To us, they are a restaurant."

Vaughn said he has gone "above and beyond" the state's social distancing requirements, including setting barricades around tables to keep people walking by at a distance along with setting up additional patio space in the restaurant's parking lot to further spread out tables.

Lava Cantina has also started live streaming of all bands with a means for online viewers to "tip" the band, technicians and engineers.

"We have done everything within our powers to provide the safest possible environment for guests to enjoy food, keep our staff employed, and keep entertainment going," Vaughn said. "We just need to come together and figure out how to operate responsible so our economy doesn't tank. We need do that in every industry, not just restaurants."

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