Several small businesses in Fredericksburg are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to reconsider his executive orders after the shutdown he announced Friday morning resulted in thousands of dollars of lost revenue and empowered state agencies to shut down businesses.
According to Claire Koch of the Stable Lobster House in Fredericksburg, her business was harassed by regulators and shut down despite complying with Abbott’s order. Here’s how Koch characterizes this weekend’s events:
“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. The officers were sent from Austin on a Sunday evening to shut down The Stable Lobster House. This is the third day The Stable, a small business in Fredericksburg, TX, has been on the receiving end of this type of harassment. At one point an Officer was noticed by a customer with his hand on his gun. When the Officers arrived on site there were 5 customers in the seating area and it had been quiet all day. Our building has a capacity of about 30. Officers were previously provided with information clearly showing our establishment operates and sells over 51% food. No laws were being broken.”
Koch adds she is “heartbroken” and that she and her husband “are just trying to do the right thing.”
“We are heartbroken. I have a 4-month-old baby. We serve over 51% in food sales and have for months. We heard of the Governor’s order as we were walking into our son’s baptism. With less than 3 hours’ notice before opening, we had already prepped thousands of dollars’ worth of food for the weekend.
“The stress of operating under COVID, operating while raising a newborn, operating in a horrible economy, and now being treated like a criminal. We are just trying to do the right thing.
“During the last shut down, we followed all CDC guidelines and were in communication with TABC nearly daily and remained open. We did the same this time. They know, and we have provided documentation showing that we have over 51% in food sales for this quarter.
“I am pleading with the Governor to simply apply commonsense and do the right thing here. We are facing both depression-like economic numbers and the stress of this pandemic. The Governor is issuing executive orders but then state agencies are interpreting in their own way and enforcing unfairly, unevenly and in contradiction with his words.
“When the Governor came out, he said clearly ‘51% in gross receipts’ but now his enforcement units are not honoring his words. We know full well the government’s power to make this permanent, but we ARE in FULL compliance with the Governor’s Order. Orders that have shifted on a near daily basis over the past few months. We serve over 51% in food sales and have for months.”
Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance’s president, Michael E. Klein, agreed with Koch and said businesses like hers have been “unjustly singled out by Governor Abbott.” In a statement, Klein said his organization is taking “necessary steps” to protect members.
“Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance (TBNA) is taking the necessary steps to protect the rights of our members and their employees across the state who have been unjustly singled out by Governor Abbott.
“Even after adhering to strict guidelines restricting occupancy, ensuring safe serving practices for both customers and employees; bars and nightclubs across the state have to once again close. Other businesses such as restaurants, many of which have identical bar rooms or areas as our membership, are allowed to continue to operate at a reduced capacity.
“To suggest the public welfare is protected by singling out one specific type of alcoholic beverage license over another is without logic and does not further the aim of protecting the public from COVID.”
Shelley Luther, the Dallas salon owner who was briefly jailed after defying Abbott’s shutdown order and reopening her salon, accused the governor of “backtracking” on his commitment to reopen the state and pull back on enforcement.
“I think he’s totally backtracking,” Luther said. “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.”