The city of Dallas will shut down all bars, health clubs, and theaters at midnight tonight and ban dining inside restaurants, Mayor Eric Johnson said this afternoon. The regulations follow similar announcements in other states on Monday but mark the most drastic measures yet taken by any of Texas’ major cities.
Johnson called the decision “gut-wrenching” at a press conference announcing the moves late Monday afternoon. The city also banned all gatherings, public or private, of 50 or more people. The proclamation will stand until Thursday night, but City Council meets Wednesday morning and will vote on whether, and for how long, to extend it.
“The message that we’ve heard has been consistent: act early, act aggressively, act in the interest of public health first,” Johnson said.
Dallas County now has 19 cases of the coronavirus. Monday’s haul of an additional five new cases included another that was likely the result of community spread, meaning the individual had no prior travel history. Johnson told reporters the city has been in constant contact with Dr. Philip Huang, director of the Dallas County Health and Human Services, as well as other healthcare professionals.
The new regulations come the same day Gov. Greg Abbott told the state to expect an exponential increase in people testing positive for the virus, as Texas ramps up to as many as 10,000 tests weekly by the end of this week. Dallas ISD also announced it would be closing indefinitely.
It was just late Thursday night that the city of Dallas followed Dallas County in signing an emergency declaration, which prohibited gatherings of 500 people or more. County Judge Clay Jenkins discouraged gatherings of more than 250 “in the strongest terms possible,” but did not ban them. On Monday, the county matched the city’s ban.
Council could also discuss, starting Wednesday, plans to help offset some of the economic damage the virus and the shutdown will have on Dallas and its workers. Johnson said he hopes federal, state, and local governments can come together to mitigate the damage.
“The closures, we know, will have an impact on our local economy. We don’t want to mislead anybody about that,” he said. “We want to be mindful of that and we want to think every way we possibly can to preserve our local economy and our way of life.”
Speaking after the mayor, City Manager T.C. Broadnax detailed the restrictions further. “Restaurants, microbreweries, micro distilleries, or wineries may only provide takeout, delivery, drive-in, or drive-thru service,” he said. Whereas a list of certain establishments the city classifies under “entertainment and amusement” must close altogether: “This includes bars, lounges, taverns, private clubs, gyms and health clubs, and commercial amusement and theaters.”
Tristan Hallman, the mayor’s chief of policy and communications, said any business that earns 75 percent or more of its revenue from alcohol sales will be subject to the ban. If an establishment falls under that percentage and has a kitchen, it will be allowed to sell food to-go. However, bars that sell beer (crowlers, growlers) or wine to-go will be allowed to do so, just as breweries and distilleries can.
“In other words, drink at home,” Hallman said.
Code enforcement will be eased off other areas to prioritize enforcement of these new regulations, working in some cases with Dallas PD, Broadnax said.
And Johnson left the door open that more regulations could be added down the line.
“We can’t rule anything out at this point,” he said. “We have to be open minded about what we can do and be ready to do it quickly.”