Angelina County bars have closed as local leaders take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, coronavirus, leaving many without an income.

Lufkin and Angelina County both passed ordinances prohibiting the operation of bars, lounges, taverns and other facilities countywide until the ordinance is repealed. Currently, that tentative date is May 1.

These local regulations went hand-in-hand with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order to end operations at bars and similar locations while the coronavirus remains a threat. In response, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission temporarily relaxed some regulations and is currently allowing to-go and delivery alcohol sales for those with mixed beverage permits.

But Jim Ann’s Club doesn’t have such a license. The local bar instead has a private club registration permit, which prevents it from selling alcohol to-go. Instead, the bar has closed for the time being.

“It was a shock,” said owner Jim Ann Hankla. “No one’s ever ready to close, but I understand the precautions to be safe and get this behind us.”

The bar normally has 10 employees. With everything closed, these workers, as well as the bar itself, must continue to pay bills without any income.

“We’ve turned off everything, all the neons, as much as we can,” Hankla said. “Of course, we have the alarms and a few lights on. We still have our monthly expenses that aren’t going to go away and we have no revenue.

“I know it’s tough on my employees. We don’t have much turnover; they’ve been with me for a long time. We’ve never experienced anything like this. It’s a shock not only to me but to them also.”

Prior to the city and county’s regulations, business continued as usual at Jim Ann’s. Despite that, Hankla had the feeling it was coming.

Hankla has attempted to help her employees with applying for unemployment while the bar remains closed. Otherwise, she hopes the pandemic will end soon.

“I’m certainly doing my part in keeping my social distance and staying in,’’ Hankla said. ‘’I think everyone that works here is doing the same. To get back to everyone, to come out and get business back to normal. We’re all looking forward to that and to get the virus behind us.

“That’s why everybody understands that even though the hardship is here, this is something we have to do.”

Bubba T’s in Hudson is another bar that was forced to close, leaving employees like bartender Renee Holster out of work.

“It’s a nightmare, but we’ll get through it,” Holster said.

“The other night when we closed the doors, our boss shut the neons off. He said it was the first time he shut them off in nine years. It was very emotional.”

Holster has worked at Bubba T’s for five years and has a child to care for. Her husband, who works in the oilfield, has been laid off, as well.

“We’re just using the money we have left for the essentials,” Holster said. “All my bills are thankfully paid for this month.

“For now, we’re just taking it as it goes.”

Her coworkers are in a similar boat, she said, with families of their own to look after.

“We all have families,” Holster. “I have a five-year-old. I know a couple of the other girls have two to three children each. It’s hard on all of us.”

Austin King’s email address is austin.king@lufkindailynews.com.

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