The reopening of bars across Galveston County was celebrated by patrons, staff and business owners alike Friday, as locals returned to their favorite watering holes ahead of the Memorial Day weekend rush.
“It couldn’t get here fast enough,” said Galveston resident Belinda Arnaud, who was visiting with friends at the Poop Deck bar, 2928 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston.
Bars were among the last businesses Gov. Greg Abbott allowed to reopen under strict coronavirus-related regulations, with most being closed more than two months.
“Two months is too long for anyone to be away,” said Renae Holman, who has tended bar at the Poop Deck for almost eight years.
For staff at the Poop Deck, the highlight of returning to work was seeing familiar faces again, as well as the sights and sounds of the bar.
“I love my regulars,” bartender Lindsay Viner said. “It’s nice to be back at work, and it’s been tough being cooped up. I think everybody is about ready to cut loose and have a good time responsibly.”
At the Poop Deck, parts of the bar were roped off and tables were spread out to enforce social distancing, patrons were asked to wash their hands upon entering the building, all glasses were replaced with plastic cups, and seats and tables were disinfected as people came and went.
The building, which is two stories and overlooks the seawall, can have a maximum of 75 people inside at the mandated 25 percent capacity, owner Jarett Pahkala said.
“It’s been steady,” Pahkala said Friday afternoon. “Some of the regulars have come in because they’ve been dying to come in for a couple months now.”
At Diamond Jim’s Country Saloon and Dance Hall, 3317 Loop 197 S. in Texas City, every other bar stool and table was removed to fulfill social distancing standards, and new hand sanitizer stations were installed. Live music on the bar’s stage area won’t be possible for the foreseeable future, owner Alan Calaway said.
“You can’t have bands up there and still maintain the social distance guidelines that we need to follow,” Calaway said.
At 25 percent capacity, the bar can serve a maximum of 50 people inside at a time, Calaway said, adding that face coverings at Diamond Jim’s were recommended but not required.
“It’s very difficult to drink a cold long neck with a mask on, but we do have hand sanitizers and all the waitresses will be wearing masks and we’ll have disinfectant sprays to spray down after every service,” Calaway said. “It’ll be the cleanest bar in town.”
Nonetheless, the regulars were eager to once again gather at their favorite bar after more than two months away, Calaway said.
“The regulars have been calling wondering when we’re going to be open; I get calls daily,” he said.