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Abilene bar choosing to stay open after city officials say they won’t enforce governor’s latest orders



ABILENE, TX— While the governor’s latest orders call for bars and similar establishments to close again, Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams says local authorities will not enforce the new requirements, referring all potential cases to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).

“We put a lot of money and hard work into reopening this,” says Lisa Kerley, owner of Shooters Bar.

Kerley says they’re closing their doors for a second time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had no income. All the bartenders, everybody was without money. We lost revenue. Everybody suffered,” says Kerley.

Governor Abbott made the decision to close bars again just 35 days after allowing them to reopen.

“Somebody needs to help all the small businesses. We’re going to lose a lot. They say that stuff is out there for us, but to get it is almost impossible,” says Kerley.

The orders come after the number of positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have risen across the state.

“We have spaced things out, we are encouraging people to social distance, cleaning and sanitizing,” says Kelsey Lanier, Bar Manager at the Whiskey Girl.

“We are going to choose to stay open again. Like we said previously, we’re not doing it to be disrespectful, we’re just doing it to look after our team and our business,” says Lanier.

Lanier says they’ve continued to follow TABC’s regulation requirements the best they can.

“We feel targeted in a sense that bars are having to shutdown, but you can go to Fuzzy’s or Walmart and those regulations aren’t being enforced,” says Lanier.

Abilene officers will not enforce the new orders.

“We feel like we have a right to be open and so we will do what we can. I don’t know what those steps look like and I hope those aren’t bridges we have to cross, honestly, but we’ll fight,” says Lanier.

City Manager Robert Hanna issued the following statement on Friday:

The City of Abilene under the advice of the City Attorney, will not enforce the Governor’s Executive Order, BUT we encourage all business owners and citizens to use common sense, and to follow the Governor’s Executive Orders to the extent they can. In regards to bars and restaurants, TABC will likely work to enforce the Governor’s Executive Order. 

Any immediate events scheduled in June and July will likely proceed, but events further out I cannot speak to at this time. All that being said, the City reserves the right to cancel outdoor gatherings over 100 attendees if the public’s health is endangered. We will rely on hospitalizations and infection rates to make these determinations. The message folks need to hear is that they need to use common sense, and be responsible. Avoid large crowds, social distance, if you choose to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you don’t want to wear a mask respect those that do and avoid antagonizing folks or standing or walking within six feet of them. Basically be kind to one another and look out for each other. Pretty simple rules to live by.

The City of Abilene also released the following statement:

The City of Abilene encourages all business owners and citizens to follow Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order issued earlier today, limiting certain businesses and services in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19. The City of Abilene never intended to disregard the Governor’s Executive Order, or support any kind of action by citizens or business owners in contradiction to the Executive Order. The City apologizes for any lack of clarity in earlier messaging on the matter.

While the City of Abilene is not the enforcement agency charged with overseeing compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order, the City asks that residents and business owners follow the Order to the best of their ability.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) is the enforcement authority that will work to enforce the Governor’s Executive Order within bars and restaurants across the state. The City of Abilene relies upon the TABC to identify bar or restaurant owners who operate in a manner inconsistent with the Governor’s Order, and if necessary, pull the liquor license of an establishment.

Any immediate events scheduled in June and July within the City of Abilene will likely proceed, however, the City reserves the right to cancel outdoor gatherings over 100 attendees if the public’s health is endangered. The City will rely on COVID-19 hospitalization and infection rates to make these determinations.

The City of Abilene strongly encourages residents to use common sense, and be responsible; avoid large crowds, social distance, and wear a mask if found appropriate. Individuals who wish not to wear a mask are asked to respect those who do and provide proper social distance of at least six feet.