HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston-area bar owner called Wednesday the start of a new era after being closed for nearly a year due to pandemic restrictions.
According to the Texas Restaurant Association, statewide about 11,000 restaurants statewide closed permanently due to the pandemic, which is about 20% of Texas restaurants.
Last year, thousands of Texas bars were allowed to reopen through a restaurant loophole. However, some bars like The Shiloh Club in the Houston Heights area, were forced to close indefinitely.
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"We had calls from our customers asking, 'Well, why don't you sell food?' Well, we don't have a kitchen," co-owner Anthony Shorrosh explained. "We didn't feel comfortable saying, 'Okay, I'm going to charge someone, say $10 for a bag of chips and you get two beers. It wasn't what we wanted to do. We wanted to follow the system. Do it right."
From March 2020 to March 2021, the neighborhood bar has been closed a total of 11 months and one week. Shorrosh said it was the first time in almost 50 years that the business had to shut down.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced last Tuesday that all businesses could open at 100% capacity and drop COVID-19 restrictions if they choose to do so. Shorrosh said immediately after hearing the news, his staff made some changes around the bar, including adding sanitation stations, complimentary sanitation wipes and disposable masks. They reopened the doors at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning with the same staff they had before the shutdown.
"The smiles on our employees face," Shorrosh said. "And just watching the customers come in, to us is just...no words can sum it up."
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Shorrosh said at Shiloh Club employees are required to wear masks, but customers are given the option of whether they want to wear their masks or not.
"Thank God we're in Texas and that we have some freedoms and some abilities to do things that other places don't," Shorrosh said. "Don't take advantage of it."
According to Abbott's executive order, it's up to the business owners to decide if it will require customers to wear masks or not and also if the establishment wants to continue to incorporate COVID-19 safety measures.
"It's good for the small businesses to come back," resident and Shiloh Club customer Cindy Baker said. "People are able to come back to work. [It's] great for the economy. A lot of people got hurt by small businesses being shut down."
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'Glad to be back:' The Shiloh Club in the Heights reopens almost 1 year since shutting down