SAN ANGELO, TX — “My fellow friends and bar owners. Stango's is not required to close, I am, however very concerned about the bar owners being able to pay their bills and feed their families,” stated Steve Stango in a post on Stango’s Coffee Shop Facebook page.
During the celebration of the re-opening of downtown San Angelo, Stango said when the orders came down to close March 19, he was more than just a little wary of COVID-19.
“It actually kinda freaked me out,” he said then. “I wanted to stay away from everyone.”
Stango said he was in that age bracket where catching the coronavirus and coming down with COVID-19 could have been a life or death situation.
He no longer is worried about his personal safety or the coronavirus.
This week, we had reports of 20-30 new COVID-19 cases per day, the cumulative case count is at 311. Of those, 140 are reported as “active” as of Friday afternoon. Friday, 5,707 new COVID-19 cases were reported across the state, the second highest daily addition since the pandemic began. The highest was 5,996 new cases reported yesterday.
Yet, 311 cases out of 118,000 people in Tom Green County is only 0.26 percent. Two people in the region have died, and out the aggregate number of cases since March is, of the total reported infections, a 0.64% death rate. In the San Angelo region, 11 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
“If they ask me again to shut down again, I’m not doing it,” Stango said. He runs a popular and independent coffee shop in downtown San Angelo. In addition to his coffee menu, his pizza menu is trendy.
Stango’s is surrounded by the signature San Angelo bars located downtown. The owners are his colleagues and friends. He doesn’t want to see any of them further harmed.
“Wow, I do not know about you but I am pissed. Why are people who are getting paid telling us that you (bar owners) can no longer get paid, and if you resist you will pay the price!” he wrote. "Well, I think its time to tell them "No More", we will not take this any longer!!! The State & TABC needs to pay the bar owners their cost of doing business or leave them alone.”
Closing bars and lowering the maximum capacity for dining areas of restaurants was ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott. All bars must close for the second time this year Friday at noon. Restaurants must reduce capacity from 75 percent to 50 percent beginning Monday, June 29.
What prompted this, Abbott said, was the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 exceeded 10 percent of tests administered.
Abbott told several television stations in separate interviews that he regretted allowing bars to re-open. He told El Paso’s KVIA that people “go to bars to get close and to drink and to socialize, and that's the kind of thing that stokes the spread of the coronavirus,” the Texas Tribune reported.
Outdoor gatherings of over 100 people are also prohibited. Stango stated his protest starts at high noon Saturday on Chadbourne Street between Irving and Concho Avenues. How many will show up and how the county and city authorities will react is not known.
Friday in Abilene, the city manager there gaffed and said that the Abilene was not enforcing the governor’s latest executive order to close down bars again. What Abilene City Manager Robert Hanna meant to say was the TABC was the primary enforcement arm to make sure Abilene’s bars were closed, not the Abilene police.
The gaffe happened amid a public declaration from Whiskey Girl, a bar in Abilene, where the owner said he was not abiding by Abbott’s orders. “We will be open at 4! Just like before our heart is not to be disrespectful but we have to look out for our team and our business! Unless someone else is offering to pay our bills. #GovAbbottForSugarDaddy,” the bar posted on Facebook.
During the previous shutdown of bars in April, San Angelo bars considered organizing to re-open together in an act of civil disobedience. Long-standing successful bar owners were reluctant to join the protest arguing they had more to lose that the most recent startup bar owner.
Gov. Abbott ordered the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to enforce the bar closures. A violation would mean a 30-day suspension of that bar’s liquor license. A second suspension was punishable by a 60-day suspension. At this point, many bar owners are wondering what is worse? Shutting down for an indefinite amount of time or risking a license suspension?