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Monday, July 04, 2022 — Houston, TX

Willy’s Pub remains closed amidst Texas bar reopenings


By Isaiah Hwang     3/23/21 10:26pm

Willy’s Pub remains closed after Governor Greg Abbott’s issuance of an executive order increasing the capacity of all businesses and facilities in Texas to 100 percent and lifting the state mask mandate starting March 10. 

Frank Rodriguez, board president of V&W Permits, which oversees both Valhalla and Willy’s Pub, said that they are currently closed with the safety and health of Rice’s community in mind. 

“The reason that neither Willy’s nor Valhalla are open currently is because Rice University is following [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] recommendations in light of the current pandemic. Bar environments are not conducive to social distancing and/or mask-wearing making them unsafe,” Rodriguez said. 

Emily Duffus, general manager of Pub, also said that Pub is not currently open in order to promote continued adherence to CDC guidelines. 

“Rodriguez advised me that the administration is hesitant to let us open at this time, especially because they wanted to be sure that people on campus would still follow the COVID guidelines despite the governor eliminating the mask requirement,” Duffus (McMurtry College ’20) said. 

Kevin Kirby, chair of the Crisis Management Team, said they are currently discussing the potential Pub reopening and should issue guidance by the end of the month.

Marc Shen, a sophomore at Hanszen College, said he believes that Rice’s decision to keep Pub closed is a good decision in order to promote safety on campus. 

“I think that it’s smart for Pub to be closed now because not everyone has been vaccinated yet,” Shen said. 

Austin Conrad, a senior at Will Rice College, also said he thinks that it is a smart decision for Pub to be closed while COVID is still a concern on campus. 

“I think it’s a safe idea to close it due to COVID, but I think that it could’ve opened this semester given the proper safety and social distancing guidelines,” Conrad said.  

Duffus said that at this time, there is no definite timeline of when Pub will be allowed to reopen. Although more of the greater Houston area as well as the Rice community have received COVID-19 vaccinations over the past few weeks, the impact of this increased vaccination rate upon the reopening of Rice’s bars continues to remain uncertain, according to Rodriguez. 

“If I were to guess, I’d say that the bars may possibly be allowed to re-open in the general time frame of late summer to the start of the fall semester,” Rodriguez said.  “Obviously, this would hinge on the continued increase in vaccinations along with a substantial decrease in infections.” 

According to Duffus, the money raised from the reopening fundraiser last fall, which garnered over $39,000, will be put back into the Pub to ensure that Rice will continue to have it for years to come. 

“We will also use the money for extra training for our bartenders and improved sanitizing practices,” Duffus said.

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