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EXCLUSIVE: Owner of Rockin’ P says decision to re-open was a “chance to survive.”

Updated: May 20, 2020


Carol Gibson, owner of Rockin’ P in downtown Stephenville, said she wasn’t trying to draw attention to herself or to the bar when she made the decision to reopen last weekend.

She was just trying to survive.

“We have decided that we would rather tell our story ourselves than having the community or city leaders speculate about what we are doing,” the Rockin P’s promotions manager Heidi Nivens told BTS News in a lengthy Facebook message. “Carol did not take the idea of opening her bar lightly nor do she ever have any intention of being defiant or appearing to thumb her nose at authority.”

Carol Gibson inside the Rockin' P.

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the bar to close, Gibson worked to secure the government’s promise of financial help for small business owners.

But she was only able to get a small amount from the Payroll Protection Plan, which helped for a few weeks, but the bills kept coming.

Most of Gibson’s employees are not eligible for assistance because the majority of their income comes from tips, and there isn’t a lot of help for part-time employees.

Gibson watched businesses struggle to stay afloat, some making the tough decision to close permanently and she feared her own years of hard work would be ruined.

But the real “slap in the face,” she said, came when Gov. Greg Abbott allowed restaurants to re-open and serve alcohol.

After weeks of watching Abbott fail to make a decision about bars, Gibson felt it was time to matters into her own hands.

So she went to work.

A sign at the bar's front door.

She sought legal advice, spoke to local authorities and reached out to the TABC to better understand the rules of re-opening.

She added sanitation stations and signage throughout the bar, separated seating and marked off tables.

She hired additional staff to monitor and enforce social distancing guidelines and count the number of customers inside the bar.

She even kept capacity under 50 percent.

“I didn’t do this to be a hero or to be defiant,” Gibson said. “It was done to provide a service to a community that has not seen the expected outbreak and to allow myself and my employees a chance to survive. I did what I felt I needed to do.”

X marks the spot for proper social distancing on the floor at Rockin P.

And now she waits.

Abbott is expected to announce the next phase of re-openings at 2 p.m. today, and Gibson hopes bars will finally be included on the list.

She also plans to keep the doors open at Rockin’ P.

“If you do not want to be at the Rockin’ P, please stay home,” she said. “But if you know the risks and choose to patronize our establishment, you can be guaranteed that we have done everything we can to keep you safe.

"It’s time to live and let live.”


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