We dig The Rail. It’s a high-quality, great-sounding venue and frequently a home for hard rockers and metalheads, who have been reduced over the years to seeing or playing shows at restaurants or bowling alleys. We agree with the spirit of The Rail’s recent protest if not wholly with the form of the protest itself.
For Independence Day, Rail owner Chris Polone had invited a bunch of people to his Westside bar/venue to protest Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent order to re-close bars/venues. The problem is that while bars/venues are dying, just about every other kind of place is allowed to stay open, including churches, gyms, and nail salons and, at half capacity, restaurants –– places that also, y’know, serve booze.
The point of the Rail party, Polone later said in a comment on his own post-party post, was to ask why churches and restaurants (and gyms and nail salons) can be open but not bars/venues.
“Why are we different?” he said. “You can go to Gas Monkey [Bar & Grill in Dallas] and get wasted, but just because you can order a burger with your buzz, they are allowed to operate.”
You don’t even have to order a burger at a place like Gas Monkey, Polone correctly said. You can just sit at the bar and drink for as long as you like –– just as you would at a bar/venue.
Even with 20 food trucks outside The Rail, the venue is still classified as a bar for generating 51% or more of its revenue from the sale of alcohol. The Rail’s fight, Polone said, is “either shut [all places] down, or allow us all to open. We will gladly abide by the safety regulations set forth, but at least give us a chance to do so. That’s all we ask.”
Not meaning to offend anyone, but I’d take my chances at a bar before a gym, where you’re touching the same equipment as a bunch of other people, or a church, where you’re breathing a lot of the same, stuffy air as dozens of other folks. Clearly, bar/venue owners like Polone may believe that Abbott is engaging in some kind of vendetta against bars/venues. God forbid people sit at a bar, nurse a beer, and watch TV or talk to a friend or *clutches pearls* listen to live rock ’n’ roll. Sataaaan!
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) “showed up and were very respectful of our stance,” Polone said, offering him the chance to either shut down on the spot or risk a possible 30-day shutdown later. Polone chose to stay open.
“Although there was not a single drop of booze in our bar,” he posted, “we [were] still in violation because we are a 51% bar.”
Since The Rail did not charge admission or sell booze, Polone said, the gathering was more of a protest than a party. “The fight is just now beginning. We now have further grounds to pursue this to the full extent of the law. Our rights were clearly violated, including our right to assemble (even in the building we pay for) as well as multiple other violations of the U.S. Constitution.”
Understanding that The Rail took a lot of safety precautions, I can’t say I 100% agree with calling people together at a time like this. Yes, I also think the hundreds of Fort Worthians protesting racial injustice need to do a much better job of social distancing and wearing masks. COVID-19 is no joke. As the majority of the rest of the world is now returning to normal, the United States is still battling the first wave. There are a lot of obvious reasons, starting with the fact that national and local leadership did not take the threat seriously from China late last year. There’s also a segment of the population who thinks COVID-19 is just the flu and that wearing a mask in public is un-American or something. (But you wear seatbelts when you’re in the car and pants when you go outside. Is that un-American, too?) For one thing, I had the flu a couple of years ago, and I would not wish it on anyone. It totally sucked. I’d keep wearing a mask if I knew it could ward off the flu alone. Two, COVID-19 is the worst virus we’ve faced in a long time. Since it’s new, we don’t have any antibodies to fight it, and unlike the flu, it doesn’t have a vaccine. “Additionally,” the CDC says, “the case fatality rate is estimated to be 10 times higher for COVID-19 than the flu.”
Nothing will stop the conspiracy theorists from continuing to gather and continuing to shun face masks, much in the same way that nothing will stop civil justice warriors from getting together and marching. The rest of us need to do the best we can to stay indoors and away from others. At least the marches serve a purpose other than “I need my nails did!”
Based on his post-party post, Polone believes shutting down The Rail for 30 days would be worth it.
“That was the most rock ’n’ roll thing we have ever done in our lives,” he wrote. “We will continue to update and stand up for all 51% bars/venues until this unjust shutdown is over or until all places of gathering are asked to close. This is unfair, and we will continue to stand up for what we believe in.”