Updated – Texas Bars Set To Reopen Pending Local Approval

The beer tap wall at The Hay Merchant

Starting October 14, Texas bars in counties with low COVID-19 hospitalizations will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity with in-person service as long as local county judges approve of the order. At this time, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo cautions against reopening and does not yet publicly endorse the governor’s allowance. We expect to hear more from Judge Hidalgo later this week and will update as more information is available.

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Although Governor Greg Abbott is allowing bars to reopen at 50% capacity, county judges still have final say. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo responded on Facebook with caution against reopening. Photo via Facebook

Governor Greg Abbott made the announcement today, adding expansion options for other establishments such as amusement parks and movie theaters. In addition to limiting inside seating to 50% capacity, patrons are required to remain seated while at the bar itself. There will be no occupancy limits for outdoor seating. Helpfully, bar staff and related personnel do not count toward  capacity limits, allowing bars bring in as many customers as possible within the order’s parameters.

Customers and bar staff are still required to maintain social distancing of six feet and to wear face coverings over the nose and mouth when this is not possible. They must also follow the same safety guidelines as restaurants. Additional protocols are provided to offer guidance for a variety of specific bar service situations. These are available online and include a checklist for staff-customer interactions, employee health, among others.

In an announcement video, Abbott explains his confidence that this bar reopening phase will be more successful than the previous attempt. He cites more information about how the virus spreads and how to limit its spread, more rigorous safety protocols, and better preparation for testing and treating Texans. He notes the current administering of 65,000 rapid result tests daily across the state, a number that should increase to 100,000 per day beginning next week. The governor also applauds Texans for taking the virus more seriously and “following safe practices” to contain the virus, which will enable the state to eventually reopen at 100%.

This news will hopefully offer financial respite for the state’s hard-hit bars, its owners and staff.

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