Frankie’s sports bar in Fort Worth closes; owners blame Obamacare

Frankie's Sports Bar in downtown Fort Worth, which opened in March 2011, announced Monday that it has closed.
Frankie's Sports Bar in downtown Fort Worth, which opened in March 2011, announced Monday that it has closed. Star-Telegram archives

Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill, a popular spot for watching Dallas Cowboys and TCU football games in downtown Fort Worth, has closed after five years.

In a statement posted on Facebook, owners Bill and Johnnie Katz cited the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, as the “proverbial straw” that forced their business to shutter.

“Several factors led to this decision, but … if we were to stay in business, there was no way for us to have borne the weight of the oppressive penalties for failing to comply with the mandates (of the Affordable Care Act),” Katz said. “Therefore, another establishment goes out of business. Over 50 people lose their job. Suppliers and vendors lose the revenue of our account. Loyal patrons have one less option for dining out.”

Katz said Monday that between his two locations (the other is in downtown Dallas), he has more than 50 employees and therefore would face a penalty on Jan. 1 between $200,000 and $300,000 because he doesn’t provide healthcare to his staff. The “employer mandate” of the Affordable Care Act requires that all businesses with 50 or more full-time employees provide health insurance to at least 95 percent of those employees and dependents up to age 26, or pay a fee.

“I don’t have that kind of money,” Katz said, referring to the penalty. “So instead of 50 or 60 people without healthcare, we have 50 or 60 people that aren’t employed anymore. It makes no sense.”

He said the Dallas location is more lucrative, so it will remain open.

“It’s bittersweet,” Katz said of closing the Fort Worth location. “There were a lot of tears and sleepless nights. I was trying to keep it open. I love the store. I love Fort Worth. But I was out of aces. The Affordable Care Act — what an oxymoron — made it impossible.”

Frankie’s opened its first location in Dallas in 2000 and was regularly named among the best sports bars in the city. It made a splash in March 2011 when it added a Sundance Square location, just a few months before the Dallas Mavericks won their first NBA title.

Located at 425 W. Third St., across from the Central Library, Frankie’s wasn’t exactly in the heart of Sundance Square, but fans found their way to the 8,000-square-foot sports bar to watch games on the 57 flatscreens (including three projection TVs) and nosh on better-than-average pub grub.

Frankie’s quickly became a go-to spot in Fort Worth, especially when the Fox and Hound sports bar on Houston Street went out of business in 2014.

But there were signs of trouble for Frankie’s as early as 2013. That summer, the original Uptown Dallas location closed (it later relocated to downtown Dallas in 2015), and Katz told that the Fort Worth location was facing some growing pains.

“The problem that we’re experiencing in Fort Worth is that there’s all that construction going on in the middle of the square,” Katz said, referring to what is now Sundance Square Plaza. “And we’re partnered pretty tightly with Sundance Square itself. And we’re just waiting for that construction to be done, and once it’s done it’s going to be Katie-bar the door. This place is just going to blow up.”

On Monday, Katz said Frankie’s in Fort Worth has certainly had its good days and bad days. “We’re busier during football season than baseball season. And I would’ve loved it if I was three blocks to the east (in the heart of Sundance Square).”

But he reiterated he would not be closing the restaurant if it were not for the penalties he’d face from the Affordable Care Act.

“I hate that I have to do this. It’s strictly a business decision,” Katz said. “I have a lot of faith in the president-elect, but I don’t think he can (change the system) on his first day in office. And I don’t have that kind of money.”

A Facebook post on Frankie’s page Monday bid “Farewell Fort Worth,” and thanked the many friends and “TCU fan base that supported us these past five years. We will miss you all.”

It was signed: Best wishes and GO COWBOYS!

The Frankie’s in downtown Dallas remains open.