Either way, we’re screwed. We’re either going to die from COVID-19 or die from starvation because we’re broke. After the stark, intentional lack of national leadership forced us into this mess, we have been left devoting #thoughtsandprayers to a vaccine. Until it’s readily available to everyone, we’re going to be stuck in a holding pattern. The best way moving forward will be to stick together — as long as we’re 6 feet apart.
A few local bar owners do not give af. In some spots in the West 7th corridor, large groups of chiefly college-age people (and, c’mon, underagers) are getting sweaty together and swapping spit despite the global warnings. “The recovery rate is so high!” these youngsters argue, never thinking that while it may be fine for them to get and get over the COVID, their grandparents might not be as #blessed. Once again, the #mefirst community — the same folks who think wearing a mask is a form of government control but who believe telling women what to do with their bodies isn’t — endangers us all.
For every Varsity Tavern in this town, though, there are dozens of responsible drinking establishments, and this needs to be remembered if Gov. Greg Abbott goes against his current stance and orders another lockdown.
One place taking the pandemic ultra-seriously is Lola’s Trailer Park. Mostly outdoors and with strict safety protocols enforced, the West 7th-area venue/bar is doing it right. I stopped by for a few happy-hour fancy macrobrews a couple of weeks ago, and I never felt like I was going to catch anything other than the vapors (so many damn Cowboys fans). My response was based in respect. Everyone I had run into had tacitly and precognitively agreed to keep their distance and not exchange physical greetings. No hugs, no handshakes, an elbow pound at most. There’s no reason why Lola’s should have to lock down if the owners keep enforcing the rules. Other, less outdoorsy, less strict, more wheels-off places should be the first to close.
Trailer Park manager Blake Parish says that while they’re doing OK at the statewide 50% capacity, “attendance is down, but that’s to be expected.”
One thing he feels will help is the proposed Congressional stimulus package. As part of the bipartisan campaign Save Our Stages, stimulus monies could go toward venues like Lola’s Trailer Park.
“We’re just crossing our fingers that we get that Save our Stages money,” Parish said. “That will go a long way toward keeping us afloat during what is traditionally our slowest season even before a pandemic.”
MASS, Fort Worth’s only other pure original indie-rock venue now that Shipping & Receiving remains voluntarily closed, is also surviving. Co-owner Ryan Higgs is also hoping Save Our Stages comes through, saying that the biggest hurdle has been filling the calendar, which is important since in-person rocking and rolling onstage is what drives people to MASS in the first and only place.
“Many bands are wanting to wait it out,” he said, “which I do completely understand. Most bars are OK to run at 50% capacity, but as for venues or dance clubs, we budget to try and fill the room during the show. It is difficult for sure, but most people in our industry have these same issues. Safety is extremely important, and we would probably shutter until it calms down if we didn’t have a lease and other bills to try and pay.”
Both Lola’s and MASS say their landlords have been sympathetic. Lola’s owner Brian Forella says that without their landlord, the Trailer Park would be done. “They really have helped tremendously.”
As the right complains that the safety measures are too draconian, some on the left say they don’t go far enough. Based on chatter in the Texas twittersphere, I’m seeing arguments for another lockdown, which is why I’m saying locking down should be determined on a case-by-case basis by the same TABC/Code Compliance folks stalking the city to spy for breeches in protocol now. It’s not that I don’t care about everyone’s health. Of course I do. I proudly voted for Biden/Harris. It’s also not because bars/venues subsidize my paycheck. They kind of do (ain’t gonna lie). It’s because responsible bar owners should not be punished for the misbehavior of others. And, I admit, it’s also because if you’re going to close bars, you should also close churches and gyms, two types of establishments that Abbott permitted to remain open while bars suffered closures and two kinds of places that are just as infective as bars if not more so. Though I haven’t been to church since a wedding two years ago, I distinctly remember a lot of singing and recitation going on in front of the altar, and unless the priest is the only one talking/singing these days, I wouldn’t want to be trapped in the pews amid all of that super-spray. As for gyms, they’re bacteria havens anyway. Add a deadly virus to them, and you might as well be dancing the night away maskless and/or topless in West 7th.
In Tarrant County, social gatherings are the “biggest factor” driving the surge in COVID cases, Tarrant County Public Health told the Star-Telegram recently. The county actually went as far as suggesting that the parents of local school district teens rein in their party time to keep them from catching or passing the virus. If Abbott changes his mind, even a little, there’s a chance he will order lockdowns of parts of the state where COVID hospitalizations are skyrocketing, like Tarrant County. By placing the decision with local officials, the ones who are listening to the data and not the soon-to-be-former “president” of this once-great nation, the governor can ensure places like Lola’s Trailer Park and MASS — and the Boiled Owl Tavern and Buffalo Bros and Liberty Lounge and Thompson’s and all of the other responsible watering holes in this hamlet — can hang on until that vaccine comes along “like a miracle.” — Anthony Mariani
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