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COVID Mandate Stories: ‘We Went Broke’

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One Houston-area business owner shares how his business struggled, and later died, thanks to government shutdown orders and restrictions. Even so, state officials allowed other businesses to survive and thrive, and he wants to know why.

“It was one year ago today at 8 o’clock in the morning. [Gov. Greg Abbott] announced all businesses [were to] shut down at noon,” James Kopeck told Texas Scorecard in an interview on March 16. He owned Chuters Dance and Night Club in Pasadena, a city in southeast Houston. Chuters was one of the many businesses Abbott forced to shut down last year as part of his response to the Chinese coronavirus.

On December 14, 2020, Chuters announced it had permanently closed. Almost three months later, Abbott announced it was time to reopen Texas “100 percent.”

“We went broke,” Kopeck said. “I didn’t make it.”

Kopeck used to go to Chuters when he was younger, back when it was called the Texas Saloon. In early 2020, shortly before Abbott’s shutdown, Kopeck and a business partner bought Chuters. The owner at the time was a friend of Kopeck’s, who had been planning to close the business.

“I sure hate to see this closed down because there’s nothing else like it in the Pasadena area,” Kopeck said upon learning what his friend planned to do. And his business partner, Chris Berstrom, had long dreamed of having a bar.

“We signed the papers on March 1 of last year—and then March 16, we got shut down,” Kopeck said. “We put all our money into this thing, buying it, and then they shut us down.”

When the government shutdowns hit, Chuters was preparing for St. Patrick’s Day.

“We had a big event planned, and we had bought product and everything,” Kopeck recalled. “We lost a lot of money

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