To combat COVID-19 bar closures, Deep Ellum’s Bottled Blonde has rebranded itself as a pizzeria. Photo courtesy of @bottledblondedtx on Instagram

Last month, Deep Ellum bar Bottled Blonde was approved to reopen under the terms that it would operate as a pizzeria. While this loophole allowed the bar’s reopening, many have noticed that Bottled Blonde is still mostly operating as a bar. Pictures and video of a packed Bottled Blonde appeared on social media this past weekend, and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission launched an investigation into whether the bar is following COVID-19 safety protocols.

Per Gov. Greg Abbott’s June 26 order, bars must remain closed, while restaurants may remain open at 50% capacity. However, this past weekend, many onlookers noticed that Bottled Blonde was operating at full capacity. Deep Ellum resident Veronica Young was shocked to see the bar-turned-pizzeria was operating in a pre-pandemic manner.

“We knew they were reopening and were really just curious to see how that would look,” Young says. “As we approached the venue, we immediately noticed a large crowd. It kind of took our breath away. It seemed like everything was back to normal at Bottled Blonde. It seemed so surreal.”

Young didn’t enter Bottled Blonde but managed to see inside the venue from where she was standing outside. She says that no one in the bar was maintaining 6 feet of distance and that she only saw two people wearing masks. 

When she moved to Deep Ellum, Young wanted to be part of a “true community” of artists and creatives and to make memories with her “chosen family.” She is worried that Bottled Blonde may “trample on this” if they don’t face any consequences.

“It hurts our local community business owners and the bartenders and service industry that make Deep Ellum what it is,” Young says. “I know personally a lot of the service industry here that have been out of work for six months, and the behavior of Bottled Blonde will only make it more difficult for bars to truly and safely reopen. If Bottled Blonde is the example of what will happen when restrictions get lifted, even on a small scale, then the locally owned bars in Deep Ellum are all in serious trouble. How can we trust bars to reopen if this is what it looks like?  How can we ever get back to ‘normal’ if we are being so careless and endangering lives? It really makes me sad to think about it.”

While many have vocalized their concerns, the employees at Bottled Blonde insist that they are enforcing strict COVID-19 safety procedures. 

“We were visited last Friday by the Dallas Fire and Code Compliance,” Bottled Blonde general manager Chris Carpenter says. “We were operating at under 50% occupancy, closer to 35%. That is public knowledge if anyone cares to look.”

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