Three Houston businesses have had their liquor permits suspended following Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission investigations, which found violations of state requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The actions come following inspections by TABC enforcement and auditing personnel over the weekend.
The nightclubs involved are Grooves at 2300 Pierce St., Cle at 2301 Main St. and Spire at 1720 Main St.
All three businesses are accused of violating Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order which requires businesses which sell alcohol for on-premise consumption to comply with capacity limits, as well as social distancing and mask requirements.
The businesses are entitled to a hearing before a state administrative judge to affirm the TABC decision. The emergency orders remain in effect pending the end of the suspension or a judge’s ruling.
Over the weekend, Spire was filled beyond capacity, according to the Houston Fire Marshal’s office. Fire Chief Samuel Pena said the club was given the option to re-open within capacity guidelines, but management decided to close for the night.
“If there was an emergency, a fire or something that would have occurred inside, we would have had a massive loss of life because the means of entry,” Pena said. “The exits were blocked.”
Well before Spire’s closure, city leaders were already expressing concern about crowds at clubs and bars.
“I’m still getting some disturbing pictures of people hanging out in clubs that have been recategorized as restaurants,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Saturday. “And let me tell you, they are not restaurants.”
Turner said he will be calling on TABC to crack down on the reclassifications.
“When you look at these pictures, there’s no food on the table,” Turner said. “That is crazy. I am calling on the state to review their policies.”
He said loopholes like these are making it difficult for the city to achieve getting rid of COVID-19.
TABC says they regularly conduct inspections to ensure businesses are in compliance with state requirements. Since June 26, the agency claims to have conducted nearly 30,000 inspections, finding fewer than 800 total infractions.
Club Spire’s alcohol license has been under scrutiny before. The license was suspended in June for violating social distancing guidelines when videos from inside surfaced.