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What Dallas’s Busiest Bar District Looked Like on Reopening Weekend

Deep Ellum was packed with partygoers who didn’t seem overly worried about the coronavirus pandemic

Following Texas governor Greg Abbott’s order allowing bars across the state to reopen at 25 percent capacity, bars in the city’s busiest entertainment district threw open the doors this weekend.

Bars in Deep Ellum were met with eager crowds of Dallasites clearly ready for a sense of normalcy after weeks of staying at home. Lines snaked around the buildings in the neighborhood, working their way through the streets as throngs of partiers waited to get into establishments like Vidorra, Stirr, Will Call, and Wits End, which took advantage of their outdoor patio spaces and removed indoor seating in an effort to comply with the governor’s orders, with varying degrees of success.

Were it not for the endless street signs making questionably humorous COVID-19 jokes and puns, the people flooding the sidewalks and cars clogging the streets made it seem like Deep Ellum was operating just as it was before coronavirus. There didn’t seem to be much of a sense of concern about the virus amongst Deep Ellum revelers this weekend — face masks were few and far between, typically only worn by workers at these bars, not patrons, and drinkers lined up in tight queues across the neighborhood.

A crowd of people stands, maskless, inside a Deep Ellum bar Kathy Tran/EDFW
Kathy Tran

Most folks seemed perfectly fine standing shoulder-to-shoulder waiting in line for entrance to their favorite bar, and large groups mingled in the streets. There was even seemingly an impromptu music video being filmed in the bumper to bumper traffic off of Elm in front of Wits End. The crowds were especially thick at notorious Deep Ellum bar Bottled Blonde, which earned criticism over the weekend for its packed barroom.

“Take that off! Corona doesn’t even exist,” one bargoer hollered at another at another wearing a N95 mask on Friday night. “It’s a distraction for population control!”

Even with a steady supply of potential customers, some bars in Deep Ellum chose to stay closed for now. Beauty Bar remained dark, and Louie Louie’s Piano Bar was closed, with “25 percent isn’t enough for us or your mom” plastered on its marquee. Braindead Brewery also kept its expansive patio closed, as did Double Wide. “With the reduced capacity, seating challenges, increased cost of sanitation and cleaning it is presenting challenges for a small business like us to make it financially feasible,” the bar wrote on Facebook.

Time will tell whether or not reopening bars anywhere was a huge mistake, but for now, Deep Ellum is slowly regaining its typical chaotic energy, even at limited capacity.

Kathy Tran/EDFW
Kathy Tran/EDFW
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