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As Gov. Abbott closes bars weeks after allowing them to reopen, bar owners grapple with uncertainty

In the fight against COVID-19, Abbott announced Friday bars would close at noon for an undetermined amount of time, but could still do delivery and take-out

FORT WORTH, Texas — In the West 7th entertainment district of Fort Worth, it was last call for bars and their patrons Friday. Governor Greg Abbott mandated that bars would be closing again, as COVID-19 cases skyrocket, both locally and statewide. 

Bars had only reopened in late May after being shut down in March.

"I was like, holy cow, this really is real. It's a pure nightmare. I can't even describe it," Emil Bragdon said of the news. "In a matter of minutes, my entire staff has no job."

Bragdon owns three bars in Fort Worth -- Reservoir, Whiskey Garden and Your Mom's House -- and another Reservoir location in Irving near the Toyota Music Factory. 

He said the last closure was already brutal, and feels his industry is being targeted unfairly. 

"There are still gatherings of people—even the church, too, you know. There's still gatherings of people in masses. Why bars?" he asked.

Governor Abbott addressed part of that in a press release Friday, saying: 

"At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars. The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and enhance public health."

In his order, he said bars can still participate in delivery and take-out.

"I know none of us wanted to go backwards, but we've got to do everything we can to keep the virus under control," said Dr. Susan Bailey, a Fort Worth allergist, who's the president of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Bailey explained that talking loudly in close quarters, with no masks, is behavior that's ripe for COVID-19 transmission. 

"So, unfortunately, bars, clubs and indoor spaces like that seem to be the perfect environment to spread the virus, and it's almost impossible to contain there," she said.

Bragdon said he had just started to prepare for Friday's 6 p.m. mask mandate in Tarrant County. He feels the carpet's been pulled out from underneath him and other business owners.

RELATED: Tarrant County judge: 'If you leave home, put on a mask' 

"What actually sucks is we actually bought a lot of face masks to hand out to guests and getting everything set up, then they pulled the plug. Give us a chance. Give us a chance to stand on our feet," he said.

It's now unclear when that chance will come.

Click here to read the governor's press release.

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