Image originally shot in May 2020: Lee Harvey's indoor seating? Don't even think about it. There's plenty of space outside. Bret Redman

Restaurant & Bar Updates

Gov. Abbott Is Letting County Judges Decide Whether To Reopen Bars on October 14

Bars can operate up to 50 percent indoor capacity, but the governor leaves the decision up to County Judges to opt in. Dallas isn't ready yet.

Gov. Greg Abbott this week teased an announcement about reopening more businesses soon. The “cheers!” gif tipped everyone off. This was going to be about bars.

In his statement this afternoon Abbott said there have only been two types of businesses closed since July: river tubing operations and bars. “It is time,” he says, pausing for emphasis, “to open them up.” So beginning October 14, bars can reopen at 50 percent capacity “provided that they follow the safety protocols.” And provided your county judge agrees to it.

Here are the minimum standard health protocols. As a refresher of some of those protocols: patrons must be seated (no loitering at the bar), dance floors should remain closed, parties of no more than six per table, maintain social distance wherever possible, and wear a mask properly when not drinking or eating.

“Texans have shown that we can contain the spread of COVID,” Abbott continued, which doesn’t reflect the concerns of local public health officials. But the latest order gives county judges the ability to “opt their county into these openings provided they assist in enforcing health protocols.” So the onus will be on Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, yet again, to make the call. He said he will not open them.

As the judge tweeted earlier this week, “The Dallas County Public Health Committee, made up of experts in infectious disease and public health, strongly discourages the reopening of bars at this time.” Many bars have already reopened, ostensibly as restaurants, with the blessing of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Lower Greenville, Deep Ellum, and Uptown are very much alive. The move also allows college towns like Denton to reopen bars, counter to advice from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indeed, Denton County Judge Andy Eads didn’t take long to say he would file the paperwork to do so.

“What the governor is doing here is applying a political answer to a public health problem,” Jenkins said. “That leads to piecemeal approaches that doesn’t adequately protect public health.”

In related news, all businesses currently allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity—zoos, museums, bowling alleys, aquariums, movie theaters, and more—can expand to 75 percent, also on October 14. Jenkins says most of the recent transmissions are coming from social gatherings, not necessarily bars and restaurants. He chided the governor for his cheeky announcement, saying it could encourage such actions.

“We’ve seen a big increase in infections among 18 to 22 year olds, but it’s not limited to college students,” Jenkins said. “It’s about the socialization. It sends a message that leads to dangerous decisions. If they’re opening bars, what’s stopping me from inviting 18 of my family members to our poorly ventilated home to watch the Cowboys game?”

As always, keep your socializing outdoors, maintain your distance between yourself and others, wear your masks, and practice safe hygiene.

Watch Gov. Greg Abbott’s full virtual announcement here:

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