Following Governor Greg Abbott’s June 26 executive order that effectively closed bars along with rafting and tubing businesses throughout the state, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that he would be creating a “Wall of Shame” to call out Houston-area establishments not in compliance with the various stipulations.
Turner floated the idea at a press conference earlier in the week, saying that while the city would not seek to arrest business owners, the wall would alert the public to which businesses were not complying with occupancy and mask requirements.
On Monday, Turner publicized the names of three bars he said were not in compliance: Spire Nightclub, Pour Behavior, and Prospect Park.
Following the announcement, owners of Pour Behavior took to social media to dispute the mayor’s allegations.
“We’ve been one of only a few establishments following rules and regulations. In fact, your Fire Marshals and other officials have come by over 20 times and each time, APPROVED!” Wrote Roveen Abante. “Please include yourself in that Wall of Shame for defaming our establishment.”
Pour Behavior also issued an official statement noting that they had followed all executive orders, operated a full kitchen, and employed restaurant staff, “Yet we are being forced to close, putting over thirty employees out of work, again.”
Meanwhile, Spire’s owner has since defended his business, saying their establishment is no longer a bar as more of their revenue comes from ticket sales rather than alcohol.
This is important because the governor’s order limits businesses that make 51 percent or more of their profits from selling alcohol. However, that is based on 2019’s numbers and so businesses that have adjusted their services to meet the needs of COVID-19, such as focusing on food sales over alcohol, are still prohibited from opening.
According to a report from KHOU in Houston, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) says they have twice inspected Spire, but found no violations of the governor’s orders.
Spire owners said they were at 18 percent capacity when TABC officials conducted the inspection.
The TABC did suspend the alcohol permit for Prospect Park for 30 days.
That happened to 17 other establishments across the state the previous weekend, some of which are now suing.
Although Governor Abbott has said local government officials cannot impose fines on individuals out of compliance, he has approved of policies imposing fines on businesses.
This week the Harris County Commissioners Court also approved additional funding for the County Fire Marshal to provide additional vehicles and employees for policing business operations deemed in violation.
Turner tweeted later about the move, saying, “I do not want to see any businesses placed on the business wall of shame, though we are in a health crisis. We all must work together to blunt the progression of #COVID19. Please wear your masks, wash your hands, and practice social distancing.”
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Cypress, Texas. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.