Houston won't enforce 25% capacity limit on bars, mayor says

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With bars reopening and restaurants adding more tables during Gov. Greg Abbott's second phase of reopenings in Texas, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he's not enforcing Abbott's restrictions rules.

Bars, bowling alleys, and bingo halls were allowed to reopen Friday at 25 percent capacity, according to phase two of Gov. Greg Abbott's plan.

SEE MORE: Restaurant and bar owners eager to open after long closures

During a news conference on Friday, Mayor Turner said he will not extend any resources to enforce citations if a bar or restaurant is caught not following the 25 percent capacity rule.

"Like I said, we will go out there, we will ensure that we are having conversations with the business owners to try to provide a safe environment for those establishments, but that is our only focus - education and information," Houston Fire Department Chief Samuel Peña said.

The mayor mentioned two incidents where the city attempted to enforce the governor's order, but was sued in both cases. Turner said in those instances, the city did not receive backup from the governor or the state.

"Once we see that the state is willing to enforce its own order, then we will enforce the order," Turner said. "But, what we don't want to do, we don't want the city of Houston to be caught in between."

He added that police will monitor restaurants and bars and provide them with information about social distancing, but they won't issue a citation.

"The state has to provide us with assurance that this is an order that they really want to enforce, because otherwise, it puts the city in a vulnerable position," Turner said.

The mayor also asked for customers to be aware of social distancing guidelines, and to wear masks. He said if you go into an establishment that is overly crowded and people are not wearing masks, then leave.

"If you see an establishment that is violating the order, please reach out and contact someone. We will follow up," Turner said.
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