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TABC Working With VFWs to Reopen Local Halls; San Antonio Vets Say They're Unimpressed

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The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has launched an initiative to let veteran-services facilities reopen after being shuttered for nearly four months by Gov. Greg Abbott's pandemic safety orders.

But San Antonio-area Veterans of Foreign Wars commanders say they're underwhelmed by the details they've seen so far. They maintain they shouldn't have been considered bars and therefore included in Abbott's closure order.

“We’re a VFW first. It just so happens we have a canteen inside our VFW for our members,” said Bill Smith, commander of VFW Post 8541. “It’s affecting our vets and how they feel the governor feels about supporting Texas veterans.”

The TABC last week told Texas VFWs they may take one of three options if they wish to reopen: temporarily suspending their alcoholic beverage licenses, reworking their licensed premises or applying for a TABC certificate that would allow them to reopen as a restaurant.

None of those options, Williams says, is particularly effective for veteran-focused organizations.

“We’re a 501(c)(19) non-profit, and we’re one of the few remaining VFWs that has a license as a private club,” Williams said. “If we suspend our license, we couldn’t sell alcohol, which would take away our resources to provide veteran programs and take care of our vets.”

VFW facilities say they provide critical services to vets suffering from marital problems, PTSD, sleep issues and hyper-vigilance — a key feature of PTSD characterized by an enhanced state of sensory sensitivity to loud noises, sudden movements and other stimuli.

Without sales from alcohol, many VFW posts are in danger of losing a primary source of funding and going bankrupt, Williams said. That would rob veterans of programs and camaraderie not found in other organizations.

“Our VFW is home to 10 different veteran non-profit organizations,” he added.

“We have several young vets that come here because they don’t feel safe or comfortable in other bars. … I’m not saying [Abbott should] let us act like nothing is happening. I’m just saying, ‘Let us take care of our vets.’”

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