UPDATE, June 16: Two more LGBTQ Houston bars have announced closures following the rise in COVID-19 cases in Harris County. RIPCORD and Hamburger Mary’s Houston will both be shut down until at least June 23.
RIPCORD, an LGBTQ Houston leather bar, announced on June 16 that it would be closed until all employees could get tested for COVID-19. “Due to the increased COVID-19 cases, we have decided to close down for one week,” RIPCORD posted on Facebook. “Prior to reopening, we shall require all staff members to be tested. We encourage all of the community who are having symptoms to do the same.”
Hamburger Mary’s Houston owner Greg Ramos also announced on June 16 that his drag bar and restaurant would suspend operations for similar reasons. “Due to the closures in Montrose and possible exposures, I have decided not to open until next Tuesday,” Ramos posted. “The entire staff has decided to get tested for personal and professional reasons. We must all take this time to reset, restructure, and reevaluate our safety.”
ORIGINAL POST: Two Montrose bars shut down over the weekend after several employees tested positive for COVID-19. BUDDY’s Houston and Blur Bar announced their temporary closures in respective Facebook posts on Sunday, June 14.
BUDDY’S owner Christopher Barry decided to suspend operations after learning that he and four other employees were infected with the virus, according to a Facebook video. The bar will remain closed until all employees test negative for COVID-19.
“We feel it’s the most responsible thing to do,” Barry said. “[Closing the bar will] allow it to be deep-cleaned by a professional service and have all employees tested before returning to work.”
Blur Bar announced it would also temporarily close after some staff members contracted COVID-19.
“We value the safety of all of our customers and accordingly we have decided to close the club for up to two weeks,” Blur Bar said in a Facebook post. “We will be deep-cleaning during this period to make the club safe for your return.”
After being shut down for nearly two months to slow the spread of COVID-19, BUDDY’S, Blur, and several other LGBTQ Houston bars reopened on Friday, May 22, with limited capacities after Governor Greg Abbot declared it safe. Many of these establishments announced additional safety precautions in order to keep patrons healthy.
However, following the reopening of Texas bars, restaurants, and other establishments, Harris County has seen some of the highest COVID-19 hospitalization increases, growing at about three percent per day, according to the Texas Medical Center.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo released a new COVID-19 Threat Level System on June 11 to help residents better understand the status of coronavirus in the area, and what actions they need to take to help slow the spread of the virus.
Hidalgo declared that Harris County is currently at “Level 2,” which signifies a significant and uncontrolled level of COVID-19 spread. At this level, “residents should minimize contact with others, avoiding any medium or large gatherings and only visiting permissible businesses that follow public-health guidance.”
For more information on Harris County’s Public Threat Level System, visit readyharris.org/Stay-Safe. For more information on where to get tested for COVID-19, visit publichealth.harriscountytx.gov/Resources/2019-Novel-Coronavirus/COVID-19-Testing-Information.