The shutdown policies implemented in the name of slowing the spread of the Chinese coronavirus have wreaked financial havoc across the nation, with small-business owners decrying the rules as oppressive and unfair.

Lubbock resident and entrepreneur Michael Clintsman is one of the countless small-business owners who feel the impact of the shutdown—and he is compelled to speak out.

“I feel like every business is essential,” Clintsman said. The 41-year-old businessman owns three restaurants/bars located near Texas Tech University—businesses that he says are the result of years of hard work, as he built his successful operations from the ground up.

“It doesn’t seem fair to me to work hard my entire life building something, only for it to be suddenly taken away by the government.”

Clintsman, who employs 90 people, talked about the problems business owners have been facing with the rapidly imposed shutdown, describing the ill-contrived laws as a “boxed in” dilemma.

“Thirty-five percent of our business is food, but because we went over 51 percent in sales of alcohol, we are arbitrarily shut down,” Clintsman said. Bars were ordered to remain closed, with no projected date of reopening.

It was reported that the Texas Restaurant Association recently presented a plan dubbed the “Texas Bar Promise” to Abbott’s office, calling for the reopening of bars under certain conditions.

Clintsman pointed out how unfair and illogical the shutdown order is, saying that while his businesses have been closed by the government, his top competitors are allowed to remain open.

“Our competitors are allowed to stay open while the state shuts us down, and this causes our clientele to be lost and all kinds of long-lasting and irreparable harm,” said Clintsman. “We can provide the same safe environment as Buffalo Wild Wings and Chili’s, and yet we (small-business owners) are the ones who are discriminated against.”

On top of being mandated to stay closed while his corporate chain competitors are allowed to reopen—a constant theme during this shutdown—Clintsman elaborated on a few of the problems the shutdown has caused.

Unable to get any government assistance, Clintsman outlined how he isn’t able to compete with what people are making by drawing unemployment benefits, saying the program is now acting to incentivize people not to work.

“There is no incentive for people to come back to work if they can make more for not working.”

To top everything off, the only option the government policies are steering Clintsman toward is taking out massive amounts of debt—an option that will only make his situation more difficult if the economy isn’t opened back up.

Clintsman has reached out to State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock), who he is meeting with soon, and is also getting together with other restaurant and bar owners to try and figure out how they can band together to make their voices heard.

“All I’m asking for is a level playing field. I am suffering; my family and my 90 employees are suffering. It’s so frustrating because this suffering is pointless, and didn’t have to happen.”

Public outcry against the shutdown policies has caused protests against the measure to break out not only throughout Texas but across the nation. With the jailing of business owners like Dallas salon owner Shelley Luther, which has garnered national attention, Gov. Abbott is finally starting to back off and reverse some of his prior orders. In addition, Abbott recently acted to move salons’ and barber shops’ reopening date forward to May 8.

However, there are still business owners like Clintsman who feel the crushing force of government on their business and life.

“I’ve never been so scared, afraid for our future,” he said. “And I feel unrepresented and abandoned by my government.”

Matt Stringer

Matthew Stringer is from Odessa, TX and serves as a West Texas Correspondent for Texas Scorecard.