How Fort Bend County bars, restaurants are handling rollbacks

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Fort Bend County is one of Houston's neighboring counties that will be forced to roll back on capacity measures for restaurants and businesses as bars that are not operating under the restaurant category will have to shut their doors.

This follows an order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that any Trauma Service Area (TSA) that has had seven consecutive days in which the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations exceeds 15% must close bars and reduce restaurant capacity to 50%.

On Monday, region TSA Q was just one day away from having COVID-19 hospitalizations at 15% capacity or higher for seven days in a row, according to data from the Department of State Health Services (DSHS).

TSA Q region includes the following counties: Austin, Colorado, Fort Bend, Harris, Matagorda, Montgomery, Walker, Waller and Wharton.

READ MORE: What COVID-19 rollback means for bars and restaurants under Gov. Abbott's order

On Wednesday, Fort Bend County Judge KP George's office released a statement regarding the restriction rollbacks:

"Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-32 rolls back reopening for certain establishments to 50% and shuts down bars in Fort Bend County due to crossing the state's COVID-19 hospitalization threshold for our region. Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-28 is still in effect prohibiting all gatherings of more than ten people. All questions about the Governor's Executive Orders and State Mandates including enforcement can be directed to the Governor's office.

At this time, Fort Bend County does not have any local orders; but, we will comply and follow all those mandated by Governor Abbott. As we get updates from the Governor and State of Texas on their Executive Orders, we will communicate them out with our jurisdictions, partners, and public."

Victor Litwinenko, the co-owner of Jupiter Pizza & Waffle Co., said when COVID-19 cases start to increase, he notices more customers choose takeout or delivery, but he said outdoor seating has also helped his business.

"They let us go to 75%, but the big restriction for us was the six foot distancing between the tables, so we really couldn't go to the 75%, we kind of kept it at 50%," Litwinenko said. "Some bars did make it to where they are selling more food. That way, they can stay open and that has been what has kept them open, but as far as 100% bars, they're having a big struggle right now."

According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, 3,100 Texas bars have changed its operations to fall under the restaurant category.

Chris Porter with the TABC said the agency will continue to regulate businesses and bars through its regular inspections and will generally give establishments a first warning if it is not following state guidelines.

"What that means is we will be visiting locations that are regulated by the agency and checking for things like capacity we will also be checking for social distancing and facial coverings," Porter said. "Statewide, we have suspended about 250 businesses out of a total of more than 6,000 inspections, so really, the vast majority of the businesses really understand what is at risk and they understand the importance of complying with these guidelines."

Litwinenko said the community can help out businesses by continuing to dine-in or order take out and shop local.

"Remember, these employees live here in the community too, so they need their jobs as well," Litwinenko said, "Anytime you come in, whether you order online or to-go or delivery, you know the tip makes a big difference for them. That kind of keeps them going, helps them pay their bills and it helps keep them employed."

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