Oklahoma bar owner pays employees through pandemic, releases own guidelines on re-opening

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A local bar owner says he has a plan for when his business is allowed to reopen to the public.

“When we gave our staff their paycheck for March, we had supplies set aside for them to take home. Things that they weren’t able to find at the store,” Jose Rodriguez, owner of Flashback RetroPub, said.

Rodriguez is still giving his half a dozen employees a paycheck. Many of them he says were denied unemployment.

“I know a lot of them aren’t working at all. Some are trying to help out their family wherever possible, whether it’s babysitting or cleaning houses,” Rodriguez said.

He says he never anticipated a pandemic would shut down his arcade bar when it opened five years ago.

His other bar, Sanctuary Barsilica, also is sitting empty on Film Row like tons of other bars in the state.

The ABLE Commission allows the bars to deliver prepackaged beer and wine, but Rodriguez says it’s not a viable option for them.

“There’s so much competition for those type of things between the restaurants and liquor stores. It didn’t make sense for us,” Rodriguez said.

Now, these bars all around Oklahoma City and beyond are waiting for Phase 2 of the “Open Up and Recover Safely” plan.

Phase 1 allows restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, places of worship, retail and sporting events to open. Tattoo shops can open by appointment only if they adhere to social distancing protocols.

Meanwhile, the bars have to wait until at least May 15 under Phase 2.

Gov. Stitt’s office and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce told KFOR the bars are opening at a later date due to social distancing restrictions.

“It’s a little disappointing we have to start behind the eight ball, but at the same time, I don’t think we should be opening up at this time anyway,” Rodriguez said.

Under Phase 2, bars will need to minimize standing room capacity and follow sanitation guidelines.

Rodriguez plans to cut capacity in half and disinfect the bar on an hourly basis. He also hopes this pandemic will lead to change of wage for service workers.

“$2.13 is well below the poverty wage, so I find it a blatant disregard for life on the governor’s part to make the decisions he’s made this far,” Rodriguez said.

He says he feels fortunate he was able to get money through the Paycheck Protection Program. His landlord also waived his April rent to be due at the end of his lease.

The Commerce Department says they should have specific guidance for bars up on Monday. They say their guidelines are in alignment with the White House guidelines on opening bars in Phase 2.

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