Michael Neff sensed what was about to happen. It was late March, and Texas had surpassed 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. He braced as governor Greg Abbott announced that many businesses—including gyms, restaurants and bars—would be prohibited from serving customers indoors. The Cottonmouth Club, his Houston cocktail bar, would have to close.
“We were resigned to the fact that we might not make it,” Neff says of his business. “We took a day to be really, really depressed and I locked myself in the bar and didn’t answer the phone.”
Since then, Neff has tried to bring the Cottonmouth Club experience online, by livestreaming a nightly bar-themed variety show with karaoke and cocktail-themed discussions. Customers can show support by paying into a virtual tip jar. When the governor allowed bars to reopen at 25% capacity on May 22, Neff reconfigured the furniture, set up a reservation system and designed contactless