When Will Texas Bars Reopen?

After closing dining service on March 19, Governor Greg Abbott allowed bars to reopen with capacity limits on May 22. Despite anything in this document to the contrary, the governor may, by proclamation, add to the list of establishments or places that people should not visit. On Wednesday morning, Travis County Acting Judge Sam Biscoe made a decision to reopen bars and similar businesses in Williamson and Hays Counties, although documentation had not yet been filed with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). Businesses in Texas, including bars and restaurants, are starting to reopen at full capacity after nearly a year of COVID restrictions. Governor Abbott's latest executive order lifted the state mandate for face masks and other COVID-19 restrictions.

A Caldwell County announcement sent Friday says County Judge Hoppy Haden has chosen to reopen bars and similar businesses starting in October. In Texas' worst-hit county, El Paso, where the hospitalization rate is 38% and cases have increased for weeks, County Judge Ricardo Samaniego is desperate. All of this happened when Austin bars were still under a closure order to stop the spread of coronavirus. The use by bars or similar establishments of self-service, collection or delivery options for food and beverages is still permitted to the extent authorized by TABC.

But in late June, as cases and hospitalizations increased in Texas, Governor Abbott ordered bars to close their doors once again, expressing regret at opening them too quickly in the first place. Abbott's order was well received by many bar and restaurant owners, including Bob Woody, who owns several bars in downtown Austin's entertainment districts. However, with more than 1.1 million total cases and 20,500 deaths in Texas alone, public health officials disagree. In Austin, where more than 260 bars were reclassified, more than half of the cases earlier this month came from young people aged 20 to 39. More than 170 of the reclassified bars are located in Dallas County, a region where the hospitalization rate is approaching 15%.

Oscar Gamboa, the owner of Bodega's in Amarillo, said it's not clear why his bar was closed but not others he sees flagrantly violating the rules. On Wednesday, Governor Abbott announced that bars in areas where COVID-19 hospitalizations are low will be able to reopen at 50% capacity. In hospital regions where COVID-19 hospitalizations account for less than 15 percent of hospital capacity, county judges will be able to choose their county to open bars, provided they help enforce health protocols, in accordance with the executive order. If the current trend continues, more than 8,300 Texans were hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infections on Monday - nearly 900 more than last week - leading some officials to suggest that it may be necessary to close bars and restaurants completely. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission knows about Freedom Fest and will conduct normal inspections on Saturday, TABC spokesman Chris Porter said according to the Star-Telegram.

Individuals will not visit bars or similar establishments that are located in counties not included in parts (a) or (b) above.