Houston’s bars are allowed to resume service beginning Friday, May 22, as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s “phase 2” to reopen the Texas economy, but the experience of drinking at a bar will be very different than it was pre-COVID-19.
Consider a typical bar experience in which a person walks in, sits at the bar, looks over a menu, uses cash to buy a beverage and tip, and strikes up a conversation with a stranger sitting next to them. Under the state’s published health protocols for bar operations, a person could walk in and read a menu (provided its disposable), but the rest is not permitted.
To maintain social distancing, bars have been instructed to remove bar stools and seat all customers at tables of six or fewer people. To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the protocols stipulate that, “individuals should, to the extent possible, minimize in-person contact with others not in the individual’s household.”
As for that bumping soundtrack that creates a mood to linger over another drink or two, it better not inspire anyone to move around too much. “Activities that enable close human contact, including but not limited to dancing, are discouraged,” the document states.
Abbott’s order empowers the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to enforce these protocols. Bars that don’t comply risk having their license to serve alcohol suspended for 30 days for the first infraction.
On a more positive note, Houston’s patio bars have never been more essential. Patios are not subject to capacity restrictions, but they are still required to maintain at least 6-feet between tables and limit groups to six people or fewer.
So, yes, drinking at a bar will be weird, at least for the foreseeable future. People will have to decide for themselves whether being around others while savoring a cocktail, glass of wine, or properly poured beer is worth deal with the hassles of these various restrictions.
Maybe that's why lots of popular Houston bars like Grand Prize, Houston Watch Company, and Double Trouble have all announced they aren't ready to reopen yet. But given the enthusiasm with which some people have greeted restaurants reopening, it seems pretty likely bars will be busy this weekend.
The list below is not comprehensive. CultureMap will update it periodically.
77 Degrees: The stylish rooftop lounge reopens this weekend.
Camerata at Paulie’s: The intimate Montrose wine bar resumes service on Friday. Hours are 2 pm - 12 am daily.
The Cottonmouth Club: The downtown cocktail bar will require reservations when it reopens this weekend. Contact the bar through social media to inquire.
The Dogwood: The Midtown patio bar reopens on Friday at 11 am.
Looking forward to getting back into the swing of that proper Ranchwater program tomorrow at @eight_row_flint. Doors open at 11am. Can’t wait to see all your beautiful faces. Been an agonizing two months seeing you fine people only in your cars. . . . . #EightRowFlint #Covid19 #Reopening #HoustonFood #HoustonHeights #EightRowFlint #WhiskeyBeerTacos
May 21, 2020 at 10:10am PDT
Electric FeelGood: Slide into this retro-styled Midtown bar when it reopens at 11 am on Friday.
El Segundo Swim Club: The beachy pool bar returns for the summer season this weekend; $20 day passes offer two hours of time in the pool plus a whole afternoon of drinking and lounging.
Heights Bier Garten: The spacious patio bar with almost 100 beers on tap has reopened with its normal hours: 3 pm - 2 am Monday - Friday and 11 am - 2 am Saturday and Sunday.
Holman Draft Hall: The spacious patio bar with almost 100 beers on tap has reopened with its normal hours: 3 pm - 2 am Thursday and Friday and 11 am - 2 am Saturday and Sunday.
Kirby Ice House: Upper Kirby's massive patio bar reopens Friday with temperature checks for customers, the ability to enter directly into the backyard, and contactless payment including Apple Pay. See website for hours.
McIntyre’s: The spacious sports bar reopens Friday at 2 pm.
The Patio at The Pit Room: This casual bar reopens with crawfish available on the weekends. Opens daily at 11 am.
Pistolero's: The Montrose taco and tequila bar reopens with its normal hours: 4 pm - 2 am Monday - Friday and 12 pm - 2 am Saturday and Sunday.
Pitch 25: EaDo’s soccer-themed patio bar has reopened with its normal hours: 3 pm - 2 am Monday - Friday and 11 am - 2 am Saturday and Sunday.
Present Company: Houston’s most Instagrammable bar reopens with its normal hours and brunch on the weekends.
The Secret Group: The bar and comedy club reopens with table service, temperature checks, and other procedures to comply with state protocols. Hours are 5 pm - 2 am daily.
Wicklow Heights: The spacious patio bar in Shady Acres returns for its normal hours on Friday.
Wooster’s Garden: Midtown’s stylish cocktail bar has reopened with its normal hours: 4 pm - 2 am Monday - Saturday and 2 pm - 2 am Sunday.