Cameron County allows bars to reopen as Spring Break looms

Local News

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas (KVEO) — Just in time for Spring Break, bars have reopened in Cameron County.

Trauma Service Area (TSA) V, which is made up of the four counties in the Rio Grande Valley, joins the majority of Texas with less than 15% of hospitalizations being COVID-19 patients, and is therefore out of the ‘high hospitalization’ designation outlined in Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32, announced Cameron County.

TSA V passed the seven day mark under the threshold on Saturday.

On Monday, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño issued the 13th emergency management order for the county, which increased the capacity for businesses to 75% capacity.

The order also allowed bars who get 51% of their gross receipts from alcohol sales to reopen.

Bars like that, which typically don’t serve food, have been closed for a total of eight months since the pandemic began back in 2020.

Colleen Buemel, who manages the Coral Reef Lounge on South Padre Island, told KVEO that she was excited.

“Very happy to be back and to be able to pay some bills and to pay our employees, so they can pay their bills. Yes, we’re very happy.”

Happy to be open, but worried about what could happen if COVID-19 hospitalizations spike again.

“This year was the third time, so I’m very scared about that. As I’ve said, it’s very difficult to come back from these shutdowns,” said Buemel.

In the past, Spring Break would bring thousands of college students to the area.

An increase in travel to the area would help local tourism but it also has the potential to be a super spreader event.

“You know, we want to be safe,” said Buemel. “We want to do things safely. We do not want to get shut down again.”

The city of South Padre Island seems to have agreed.

At the ‘Coffee and Conversation’ event the SPI Chamber of Commerce held last week, which you can watch here, South Padre Island Mayor Patrick McNulty said the city would not be issuing special events permits until April 15, well after the typical Spring Break weeks of mid-March.

“And the reason is, there’s no way for us to safely promote South Padre Island as a spring break destination to the collegiate market,” explained Mayor McNulty.

Not issuing special events permits will hopefully limit the number of students that come to the island over the next few weeks.

Limiting the number of outside visitors should help keep the COVID-19 hospitalization rates down and help keep businesses impacted by the pandemic open.

“We’ve been around for 25 years, and we’re hoping that we have a lot of loyal customers that are ready to come back and see us, and we’re very grateful for that,” said Buemel.

When asked how it made her feel that so many people had come to the bar to support them on their first day back open, she briefly became choked up.

“There’s no words, honestly, except ‘I’m grateful’,” she said.

Colleen Buemel, manager of the Coral Reef Longue, explains what customers coming back means to her.

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