Local arcade bar’s grand opening again delayed by COVID-19 restrictions
TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) – Friday’s grand opening turned out not to be an opening at all for a local gamer turned bar owner.
Two times in a row he’s scheduled a grand opening for his new arcade bar in Temple, the BitBar, only to be thwarted by orders requiring bars to close because of COVID-19.
The first opening was set for March of 2020, but was called off after bars were ordered to close as part of the state’s initial effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Co-owner, Johnny Huang and his business partner played a waiting game for months as they waited for officials to lift restrictions.
“We were watching the news every day to see when and if we could open,” Huang said.
They didn’t make a profit for months, which he says strained their finances.
Fast forward to 2021, they regrouped and set the bar’s grand opening date for Friday.
Things were looking up until hospitalization rates rose in the state Trauma Service Area that includes Bell County.
At least 228 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Friday, accounting for about 26% all hospitalizations and filling about 21% of available beds, sufficiently high to trigger capacity reductions under orders Gov. Greg Abbott issued on Sept. 17 and Oct. 7.
As a result bars were ordered to close again, just three days before the opening.
“I think me and the staff and team feel like Rocky Balboa in the first “Rocky” movie. We kept getting beat down but we keep getting back up and we’ll keep doing so until we can open,” he says.
“We’re all kind of nerds at heart and we’re also are retro gamers and we just want to share the excitement with everybody.”
They’ve applied for a food and beverage permit to add to their Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission license, which would allow them to open at 50% capacity under the current orders.
Huang expects that process to take a few weeks and wants to open before Valentine’s Day next month.
He says they’ll be taking temperature checks at the door and regularly cleaning the games with disinfectant and a UV light.
Until then they’re offering the space for private parties, he says.
“For a business that hasn’t even opened yet, the support has been really positive. We’re really grateful for our fans in Bell County, they keep us motivated to keep finding solutions.”
BitBar in Killeen already serves food and is able to stay open at 50% capacity.
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