Bars reopening

This photograph from Tuesday shows the parking lot outside Sharky’s Tavern, 504 25th St. in Galveston, nearly full.

GALVESTON

Operators of a tavern open for weeks despite state orders meant to close bars during the coronavirus pandemic said Friday they wouldn’t abide by state-mandated social distancing guidelines other Texas bars are expected to follow when they reopen this weekend.

Sharky’s Tavern, 504 25th St., operated at full capacity Thursday night, and owners intended to do so Friday and for the foreseeable future, said Jared Woodfill, a Houston attorney representing the bar in a lawsuit challenging the city’s authority to enforce emergency orders issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

“Sharky’s was open at full capacity last night,” Woodfill said.

As part of a new round of reopening, Abbott this week said bars could open provided operators limited the number of people inside to 25 percent of their building’s capacity.

Restaurant dining rooms Friday were allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity under Abbott’s order.

Sharky’s would not follow those guidelines, Woodfill said Friday.

“There’s going to be another battle on this whole 25 percent deal,” Woodfill said.

Sharky’s Tavern opened in 2018. It is owned by Holly Landry and John David Robertson, a candidate for the Galveston City Council. Although the business serves wood-fired pizza, it’s classified as a bar by Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and displays a sign that indicates more than 51 percent of its sales come from alcohol.

After initially closing during a statewide shutdown of bars and restaurants in March, Sharky’s opened May 1, while most other bars in Galveston remained closed to conform with coronavirus closure orders Abbott has issued over the past two months.

The Galveston Police Department and Galveston City Marshal’s office have told the bar to close on four occasions since May 1, according to city officials. The city has not fined the business or arrested anyone in connection with its opening but has reported the business to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

RESTRAINING ORDER SOUGHT

Landry sued the city Wednesday and accused officials, including Mayor Jim Yarbrough, of illegally attempting to close the bar. The lawsuit argues that Abbott’s orders don’t explicitly close bars and that the city’s actions actually violate the governor’s written orders.

The lawsuit sought damages and a restraining order against the city to keep it from closing the business.

A hearing about the restraining order was held Thursday in Galveston’s 212th Judicial District Court.

District Court Judge Patricia Grady didn’t issue a restraining order, although Woodfill and city officials gave differing explanations about what happened.

Woodfill said no restraining order was needed because city officials agreed it wouldn’t try to force the bar’s closure.

“I came down here to make sure they didn’t shut her down, and they’ve agreed not to shut her down,” Woodfill said. “They’re obviously taking the position she’s not breaking the law if they are not going to shut her down. So my client was open all night last night at full capacity.”

City Attorney Don Glywasky said the order was unnecessary because the executive order Sharky’s had challenged was superseded by new orders that went into effect Friday.

The city, however, said it would leave enforcement of the state’s rules to the state alcohol commission.

In a notice posted on the commission’s website, the agency warned bars and restaurants that don’t follow Abbott’s rules could lose their licenses for up to 60 days.

“TABC has the authority to suspend any license that poses an immediate threat or danger to public safety,” the agency said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

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(15) comments

Bailey Jones

Bars are not really my thing, so my absence won't be missed. I imagine a lot of tourists will appreciate the opportunity to swap viruses there. I hope they provide health insurance to their employees. You do provide health insurance, right, Ms Landry?

Carlos Ponce

In the years since there's been a Galveston up to 2019 there were no viruses to swap, Bailey? And yes, some got sick and a few died. C'est la vie et c'est la mort.

Gary Scoggin

Does this mean we can all pick and choose which laws we obey, especially if we don’t think they are valid?

Ray Taft

Yep. That’s what it means because enough is enough. We are a government of, by and for the people. Let’s reclaim our rights.

People were ordered to stay home by decree, that many believe is unconstitutional, only go outside for essential reasons we were told. Did forcing people to live like that really contain the virus? There are a lot of reasons to believe that it did not contain the coronavirus.

Let’s reopen because staying locked down for a prolonged period of time is not the right approach!

Gary Miller

Ray>Right on. With no real evidence lock downs, masks, social distancing had any effect other than proving the power of bureaucrats what good does it do to harrass businesses employing people to earn livings? Earning a living is more important to most than keeping bureaucrats happy.

Seamus Dughan

They weren't "laws" Gary, they were "orders" . And in some cases "guidelines". Are we supposed to challenge authority? Yep, its the bedrock of a free society. Especially when that authority bypasses the legislative process.

Have you ever failed to use a turn signal? Sped? Have you ALWAYS paid for parking? Spit on the sidewalk? Crossed the street on a "don't walk" signal. Those are "laws"

Gary Scoggin

"Have you ever failed to use a turn signal? Sped? Have you ALWAYS paid for parking? Spit on the sidewalk? Crossed the street on a "don't walk" signal. Those are "laws"" -- Yep. I've done all of those things. And when I get caught I pay the penalty.

Carlos Ponce

What was the penalty for spitting on the sidewalk?

Craig Mason

I decide to not pay property taxes anymore. Think that will fly?

Bailey Jones

I'm giving up clothes entirely. Possibly marrying my dog.

dawn wilson

So sad that our GPD and City Government are supposed to try and enforce the Governor's orders when they get no help from said Governor.

Bill Cochrane

Even though I call BS on a flu strain that is no worse than other flu strains, I find it odd that so few see this Sharky's Bar fiasco for what it really is. It's an advertising gimmick. This bar is receiving thousands of dollars worth of free advertising. ("Parking lot is full") Bravo to it's marketing department.

Bill Cochrane

Fox - obviously you can't read. I said a strain of flu. I read your other post and to you it's obviously not anything other than a political statement. I will not resort to name calling as you and other democrats do.

Cliff Chatlosh

Peace and Love

Ron Paget

Ethanol (alcohol) and Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach) will kill viruses on exterior surfaces, just do not inject them.

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