KILGORE — Two East Texas bar owners say they have complied with every order from the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they both expect to have suspended liquor licenses Monday morning.
A crowd gathered Sunday afternoon at The Machine Shed Bar & Grill on Texas 31 in Kilgore to support Tee Allen’s Kilgore bar and to support Melissa Lynn Kelly, owner of Outlaws Longview Bar.
Kelly was issued a 30-day liquor license suspension Friday for staying open after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered bars, which were allowed to be open at 50% capacity, to shut down again. She said her bar does not cause any issues in the community, and she had no cases of employees or patrons contracting the coronavirus.
“I have not had a single case of COVID, and I do not know of a single person in my bar or knew anyone who had COVID. I was letting 17 (customers) in at 25% capacity (under the orders), and then 37 in at 50%. I couldn’t do a half person. so I stopped at 37. But during that time, I didn’t even have 37 people inside, and most of them were outside,” Kelly said. “We do not have trouble, we do not tolerate trouble, we are a neighborhood family bar. In our bar, 95% of the people who are there were there the day before and the day before that and the day before that ... for a lot of them it’s their home away from home.”
Kelly said she will appeal her suspension today. When she opens, she will become a “restaurant” by obeying the rules.
“I figure, maybe I need to just start charging $20 for a bag of peanuts so my food sales are higher than my alcohol sales. As crazy as that sounds, we can’t open a bar, you can get a tattoo,” Kelly said, adding she had five visits from the Texas liquor board after she made headlines for defying Abbott’s orders. “I intend to fight it Monday morning. I have made my whole bar outdoors. The tables, bar stools, the bar, popup tents ... I had less than 40 people, and they shut me down. (On Saturday), there were hundreds on the courthouse lawn in Longview during a prayer vigil. Meanwhile they served me a 30-day suspension.”
Kelly had a lot of people thanking her Sunday at the The Machine Shed Bar & Grill as bands played outside, patrons came up in motorcycles and cars and the inside was open with T-shirt sales.
“Tee is a big supporter, and she has been with me every step of the way. It’s nice to have someone who cares enough to back you,” Kelly said. “I would like for Gov. Abbott to know my name, know the spelling and know where I came from. I bought (Outlaws Longview) in December after bartending for 19 years. I put everything I have into that bar. We are very thankful today. It’s amazing these people. They are not just supporters, they are family.”
Allen took to the stage before and after the national anthem and thanked the crowd and explained she is helping other bar owners thanks to Sunday’s donations.
“Let’s talk about Black Lives Matter. Is someone Facebook-living me? Because I need you to, and tag me in it,” Allen said to the crowd outside from a stage. “I want to give them a shout out. Yesterday, a bunch of ‘libtards,’ the people on Facebook, were trashing me and bashing me and threatening to come out here, but I don’t see them!”
A few in the crowd said, “They scared!”
Allen continued, “They didn’t contact me, they didn’t say that I stole their logo because I didn’t. I made sure every one of my shirts say ‘Bar Lives Matter.’ ‘Bar Lives,’ because we matter, they matter, but we matter, too.”
“We are going to stay open until midnight, I haven’t seen the TABC yet. But if he does show up, be nice to him, he’s nice to us,” Allen continued. “The bands donated their time. We are going to keep the bar open, we are going to party. They are going to suspend me, and I know that, but I’m doing this for every bar owner.”
As for the money that was donated during Sunday’s event, Allen said, “We are going to donate part of your money to Outlaws Bar. We are going to keep this place (The Machine Shed) open. We are going to pay the electric, the utilities and I’m going to make sure my employees get a paycheck and they are going to continue to get a paycheck like I’ve done through this whole shutdown. My cafe in White Oak is still closed, but they still get a paycheck. We are going to make a legal fund and help other bar owners.”