First off, we’d like to say congratulations to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) for finding out what the rest of Fort Worth has known for months. One glance inside Varsity Tavern any weekend since Gov. Greg Abbott allowed bars to reopen this summer would have told you all you needed to know. Varsity Tavern just don’t give a shit. The 30-day suspension of the West 7th bar’s liquor license is great but about half a year too late.
It’s to be expected, though. Here’s how the logic works all over the country but especially here: Most Fort Worth cops, Code Compliance officers, and TABC agents — like authority figures all over the country — are pro-“law and order,” pro-Fox News, pro-Trump. They probably thought COVID-19 was a liberal hoax (“no worse than the flu!”) and were willing to sacrifice Grandma and Grandpa to keep the economy humming. Not anymore. The worse the economy does and the more people who die from the novel coronavirus, the worse it’s going to look for Uncle Joe Biden, because saving lives doesn’t matter. Staying in (white) power is all that does.
At least Abbott can say he tried his best despite efforts by disgraced former president Donald Trump to allow everyone to be killed. With hardly any federal guidelines, the governor responded reasonably well, ordering a mask mandate and shutting down businesses for a long stretch of time. Every bar I’ve been to since restrictions were partly lifted has looked … pretty much the same but with social distancing in place and lots of masks. Granted, I’m not Varsity Tavern’s clientele. I’m (well) above the age of 25, for one thing, and for another, I don’t do techno, any non-local rap created after 2007, or any country under any circumstances. I’m more of a Baby Boomer Bullshit guy averse to crowds anyway but especially now. I’m happy parking it at Lola’s Trailer Park or Liberty Lounge or Tarantula Tiki Lounge. And that’s where I’ll be parking it for the foreseeable future. Their managers, and the managers at quite a few other spots around town which I haven’t been to in a while but have heard about, are sharp, and the customers know their masked, socially distanced place.
In a Star-Telegram story, Varsity could not be reached for comment. I can only imagine what they would say. Young. People. Are. Assholes. You can’t corral them! As the father of a 9-year-old who keeps playfully whacking me on the ass despite stern warnings to the contrary and also despite retaliatory playful whacks, I know how unruly young people can be. Still, Varsity’s door guys should have known better. When there’s 9 million people in your club, maybe letting in another million isn’t the right play, especially if you know every customer is more interested in making out than masking up.
Noncompliance with social distancing and masks is the reason TABC gives for slapping that suspension on Varsity Tavern. TABC agents observed “overcrowding” on Thursday along with a lack of social distancing and mask wearing. Thursday. Anyone with social media or who lives in the area knows “overcrowding” has been happening at Varsity for months. The scary part is that it’s not just the customers being dumbasses. Employees were also caught going maskless, according to the TABC. And they’re serving drinks?!
“State officials determined that the continued operation of the Fort Worth business would constitute a threat to the public welfare,” the Star-T said. And it’s true. Nearly 2,400 Tarrant County residents, 39,000 Texans, and more than 464,000 Americans have been killed by the virus. I feel now is as good a time as any to underline the fact that we would not be in this position if the former presidential administration had taken the virus seriously from the start. The only “miracle” is that we now have a president who respects science and is working toward eradicating the illness while demanding vigilance from us. Mask up, jerks.
Don’t misunderstand me. I was young once, too. I thought I was invincible. I was so angry after 9/11 that I did not care that we were taking out our aggression on the wrong nations. I just wanted retribution.
But I’m older now, much calmer and much less inclined to believe the first thing I hear on TV or read. Got-dawg, I would have loved Varsity Tavern as a college student. Get dressed up, drink your face off, and meet other dressed-up singles? Count me in. All we can do is hope that all of those countless maskless nights haven’t been super-spreader events, because even when I was young, all those decades ago, I still had grandparents I gave a shit about. — Anthony Mariani
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