AUSTIN, Texas — Bars across Texas may reopen on May 22, Gov. Greg Abbott announced May 18.
Like other businesses that are slowly reopening in Texas amid the coronavirus pandemic, patrons and employees must follow the protocols laid out by the governor. The reopening of bars marks the state's second phase of the governor's timeline for the economy.
Come May 22, here's how bars in Texas must operate:
- At 25% of the total listed occupancy inside the establishment. There is no occupancy limit outdoors at a bar or similar establishment, and employees are not counted towards the occupancy limit.
- Customers must be seated at a table. No more than six people may sit at a table
- The original version of the guidelines stated that bar owners must physically block off the bar and remove or block off bar stools so that customers can't sit at the bar or order at the bar. However, a revised version of the guidelines published on May 22 states that establishments should take steps to ensure 6-feet social distancing at the bar, between customers and employees and between customers and bar items such as clean glassware and ice. This change was a result of conversations between Abbott's team and the Texas Restaurant Association.
- Bar employees must frequently clean and disinfect any regularly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, tables and chairs
- Customers must minimize contact with people who don't live with them. Customers and employees must follow social distancing of six feet
- Customers and employees are urged to wear face masks and wash their hands
- Bars must use disposable menus and must provide single-use condiments and silverware
- Tables and chairs must be installed to maintain social distancing and may not be moved
- Employees must be screened for COVID-19 daily
A full list of health protocols for bars can be found on the governor's office's website.
KVUE reached out to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) to ask how it plans to enforce the governor's guidelines. TABC said it is "working with local agencies responsible for setting and monitoring occupancy to ensure compliance." It also said if it receives information that a location is not complying with the capacity limits, it will begin an investigation to confirm that the business is in violation. Reports of potential violations could come from local public health officials, law enforcement, fire marshals, code enforcement or officials with other state agencies.
"As we have since the start, TABC’s practice has been to educate and inform business owners. We’ll continue to provide businesses the opportunity [to] voluntarily comply with the governor’s executive order," TABC said. "Any formal action would be a last resort and would be undertaken only to protect public safety as outlined in the governor’s order.
During the May 18 press briefing, Abbott also announced that all child care programs are able to reopen immediately. Restaurants will be able to start letting in more customers on May 22. A full list of businesses that are able to open, and the guidelines for them, can be found on the governor's website.
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