City files injunction after business claims to be exempt from executive order
5:07 pm CDT, Sunday, July 5, 2020
Photo: By Danny Zaragoza/Laredo Morning Times
The City of Laredo requested a local court to put a stop to the one business that decided to stay open despite Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s order issued on June 26.
Abbott ordered that all establishments which receive more than 51% of their revenue from alcohol sales to close indefinitely.
The establishment’s main commodity is selling playing time, so the owner said they did not fall under the executive order and could remain open.
On June 30, the city filed a petition for a temporary restraining order, temporary and permanent injunction and request for disclosures after a Laredo Morning Times article was published stating that while the bar provides alcohol, it does not sell it.
According to La Oveja Negra owner Robert John Anthony, patrons do not pay to drink but rather pay an hourly fee to be in the establishment and play any games they want while also being able to drink alcohol. The business model is similar to many slot machine establishments in the city — also known as maquinitas — as they provide alcoholic beverages but do not sell them directly. They are complementary with the playing fee.
With this business model, Anthony said the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission allows him to operate as usual as he does not count as a bar under the governor’s decree. When Abbott made the announcement, Anthony quickly researched and discovered his business could remain open. However, he said they must abide by certain rules to keep their doors opened.
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“Anthony hopes that staying open while other bars in the downtown area close can be beneficial since business has been slow with the 50% capacity rule that they were recently following,” the LMT article states.
On July 1, 341st District Court Judge Beckie Palomo issued a temporary restraining order on La Oveja Negra stating that Anthony’s establishment is temporarily restrained from operating or maintaining on the property, and the property’s certificate of occupancy is revoked.
According to the petition, the city’s COVID-19 operation team worked on June 26 to enforce the city’s emergency order.
“Fire Marshall Andres Jimenez, Jr. observed the property and noticed they were operating and providing alcoholic beverages to patrons who paid a fee to enter the establishment,” documents state. “(Anthony) was informed that his business would have to close since they were in violation of the governor’s executive order and the city’s emergency order. Fire Marshall Jimenez returned to the business on (June 28) at 1 a.m. and inspected the property and observed they were still operating and providing alcoholic beverages to patrons.”
The petition further states that the establishment provided alcoholic beverages without a permit to paying customers only in violation of the TABC while also holding a certificate of occupancy classifying it as a bar in violation of the city’s emergency order and the governor’s executive order.
“The City of Laredo’s Emergency Order prohibits all non-essential services from operating in the city while the emergency order is in effect until July 31, 2020, including bars or similar establishments and businesses where alcoholic beverages are served or made available to customers at no charge,” according to the petition.
Anthony was not immediately available for comment. However, a post written on Friday on La Oveja Negra’s Facebook page states, “We’ll be temporarily closed this weekend and the following. Stay tuned for updates days/times. See you all soon!”
Palomo’s order temporarily restraining Anthony’s business expires on July 15, and a hearing on the request for a verified application for temporary and permanent injunction is scheduled for the same day at 9 a.m. in the 341st District Court.