After Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered bars across the state to close, one Houston nightclub continued to operate this weekend, and it was totally packed.
Screenshots from Downtown Houston nightclub Spire from over the weekend show massive crowds, little social distancing, and very few face masks. It’s the second time since the pandemic began that Cle Group, which operates Spire and Downtown pool club Cle, has obviously flouted the rules that required bars to close or minimize capacity.
Back in May, Cle hosted a Memorial Day pool party that went viral on social media, when screenshots of a massive pool party at the bar went viral on Instagram. This was when Abbott reopened bars just before Memorial Day, initially allowing them to operate at 25 percent capacity.
Not surprisingly, at least a few Houston bar owners who have been following the rules were pretty pissed to see the crowds at Spire over the weekend. In a lengthy post to Instagram, Heugel criticized Spire’s operators both for endangering public health and ruining things for bars that were actually operating safely.
“It’s hard to tell if Spire is defying state mandate or using some sort of loophole that will continue to make sure the rest of us can’t open as cases spike, but State and City leadership need to explain what the rest of us are rightfully concerned about being possible corruption,” Heugel wrote. “This has to stop if our industry is going to survive. Bartenders and servers everywhere are out of work, many of my bar owner friends are barely hanging on, and we are literally about to run out of hospital beds at the largest medical center in the world.”
Sean Beck, sommelier at H-Town Restaurant Group, offered a similar sentiment via Facebook post. “I don’t know who gets to make the call, but this place shouldn’t be allowed to operate based on any of the guidelines we have been pressed by state and local officials,” Beck wrote. “It’s exhausting that people and irresponsible operators are doing untold damage to our community and industries. I hope the government officials do what is right.”
Speaking with ABC13’s Mycah Hatfield, Spire part-owner Bret Hightower said that his establishment was a “reception hall,” and not a nightclub, because it makes most of its revenue from the sale of tickets. Hightower also said that clubgoers and staff were required to wear masks, but photos from this weekend don’t support that claim.
In a tweet on Sunday, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner said that officials from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission were out inspecting Houston’s bars and restaurants for their compliance with the rules laid out in Abbott’s most recent executive order. Clearly, Spire wasn’t one of them.
Meanwhile, as the Houston Chronicle reported, the state of Texas reported yet another record high number of new COVID-19 cases on Saturday. The day before, Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo urged Houstonians to stay home as COVID-19 cases surge in Houston and its surrounding areas.