Masks, crowds, another shutdown: It weighs on your brain, Houston bartender says

  • Houston bar owners and bartenders who had to close down their businesses a second time in less than four months after Governor Abbott’s order last Friday.

    For bartender Stacy Gouty at Houston’s Cottonmouth Club, it has been an unpredictable struggle–staying safe from COVID-19 and also keeping financially afloat during the shutdown.

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    Houston bar owners and bartenders who had to close down their businesses a second time in less than four months after Governor Abbott’s order last Friday.

    For bartender Stacy Gouty at Houston’s Cottonmouth

    … more

    Photo: Stacy Gouty/Cottonmouth Club

Photo: Stacy Gouty/Cottonmouth Club

Houston bar owners and bartenders who had to close down their businesses a second time in less than four months after Governor Abbott’s order last Friday.

For bartender Stacy Gouty at Houston’s Cottonmouth Club, it has been an unpredictable struggle–staying safe from COVID-19 and also keeping financially afloat during the shutdown.

less

Houston bar owners and bartenders who had to close down their businesses a second time in less than four months after Governor Abbott’s order last Friday.

For bartender Stacy Gouty at Houston’s Cottonmouth

… more

Photo: Stacy Gouty/Cottonmouth Club

Masks, crowds, another shutdown: It weighs on your brain, Houston bartender says

For Stacy Gouty, bartender at Houston’s The Cottonmouth Club, the pandemic has been marked by this unpredictable struggle–staying safe from COVID-19 and keeping financially afloat.

Employees of Texas bars, ordered to shut their doors Friday for the second time in less than four months, are facing a unique challenge.

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“It’s a lot to weigh on your brain,” said Gouty, who knows one friend who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. “It’s been extremely stressful. The stress comes from uncertainty.”

Gouty said that the most important thing for the staff at The Cottonmouth Club was that they maintain safety guidelines.

“It was hard for people in the bars to keep on their masks,” he said. “With the spike, we decided to close again.”

Large crowds have been caught on video at several Houston nightclubs including Cle and Spire, since the initial reopening of Texas. “The bars that pack out like that ruin it for everyone who are taking the extra steps,” Gouty said.

Gouty said that the financial struggle for Houston bartenders has been a heavy one, but so many in the service industry are stepping up to help each other out.

“We got a lot of help in the process–with Houston Shift Meals, offering free meals,” Gouty said. “Hugo’s, Backstreet Cafe started an FB group to offer free help available for the industry every day. That helped out a lot.  I got some leeway on rent because of my landlady.  There’s no government assistance for the bar industy. The service industry takes care of each other. “

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Something unexpectedly positive came out of the struggle. The shutdown during the pandemic gave birth to a new podcast which generated some income.

“We live-streamed on Instagram every night at 9 p.m.,” Gouty said. “We started to talk about regular bar stuff. We linked a Venmo to that.  We were selling t-shirts, and that kept us afloat for a while.”

When asked about the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance’s plan to sue Texas over bar closure, Gouty didn’t mince his words.

“It’s ludicrous,” Gouty said. “A lot of people are advocating for that.  It’s a lot of people who don’t care for public safety.  I think it’s come down to this–it’s care about others over caring about your pocketbooks.  You’re putting others in danger, not just yourselves.”

Gouty said many Houston bartenders, bar owners and other members of the service industry are hurting right now.

“I think everyone needs to practice some compassion,” Gouty said. “If you know bartenders who are not working right now, check up on them.  Some people’s employment is being cut off. Tell them, ‘Hey, I’ll bring you a burger.’ Anything helps, really.  Have a lot more compassion in general.  Just step outside yourself a bit.  Just care…whether it’s wearing a mask or checking in on your friends.”

alison.medley@chron.com