Bass Pro permanently closes café, bowling alley

HARLINGEN — Grabbing a bite to eat and a beer are all in the past at Bass Pro Shops Harlingen following the permanent closing of Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl and Grill.

Bass Pro Shops officials say the restaurant and bowling alley, which have been closed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are shut down for good.

“We permanently closed this restaurant to alter the space and better serve our customers with expanded products and services,” came the terse reply to an email asking about the situation from Bass Pro’s headquarters in Springfield, Missouri.

Workers at the Harlingen store confirmed the closings.

Despite the COVID-19 business slowdown, Bass Pro Shops in Harlingen appears to be weathering the pandemic.

At a Harlingen Economic Development Corp. meeting earlier this month, CEO Raudel Garza said the HEDC is on track to receive $411,821 this fiscal year in a budget category heavily dependent on the payment of rent by Bass Pro.

The HEDC in 2010 issued a pair of sales tax revenue bonds totaling $31 million to lure Bass Pro to the city. The city still owes more than $20 million on the 20-year bonds.

The HEDC also has amended its agreement with Bass Pro to give the company some leeway in meeting its financial obligations to the city, Garza said via email.

“Regarding Bass Pro, like the vast majority of retailers across the country and here in Harlingen, Bass Pro Shops is partnering with its landlords to navigate the most challenging retail environment in modern history,” Garza said. “HEDC amended its agreement with Bass Pro through the end of the year to provide greater flexibility due to the impact of COVID-19.

“We extended some timelines and also asked for some other consideration in return for working with them through the pandemic,” he added. “In doing so, HEDC is gaining access to an adjacent parcel of real estate previously held by Bass Pro, for development, which will positively contribute new sales tax revenue in the future.”

Bass Pro Shop will soon be closing its Uncle Buck’s Fish Bowl & Grill. (Maricela Rodriguez/Valley Morning Star)

Garza said the amendments to the Bass Pro agreement with the city are only temporary, and he says they will help ensure a continuing Bass Pro presence here.

One area in which Bass Pro Shops’ store in Harlingen in thriving is its gun department.

Ammo shelves, at least for the more popular handgun rounds, are practically bare, and the store has replaced half of one of them with items like cartridge storage boxes to perhaps lessen the visual impact of the shortage.

The handgun rounds remaining on the shelves are the oddballs, like big-bore .454 Casull rounds. Looking for 9 mm or .45 auto? You won’t find it here at Bass Pro, at least not lately.

Gun shop employees say handguns have been flying off the shelves, or in this store, out of the glass display cases, which look to be one-third empty.

They say they can’t speak for attribution, but relate that customers anxious about COVID-19 and the rioting in dozens of cities are coming in and grabbing a box of ammo still available and then asking for a gun — any gun — that can fire those rounds.