Montgomery County judge gives green light for all businesses to reopen on Friday

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Texas -- According to Montgomery County officials' interpretation of a recent state order, all Montgomery County businesses, including salons, gyms and bars, may be allowed to open on Friday.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order on Monday to gradually ease restrictions meant to curb the spread of coronavirus, beginning with allowing retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to reopen this Friday statewide with no more than 25% occupancy. In mid-May, the state will assess if other businesses such as barber shops and gyms can open.

But at Tuesday's Commissioners Court meeting, County Judge Mark Keough said he interpreted the order as meaning individuals should use their discretion when visiting businesses beginning May 1.

Keough's interpretation centered on the wording of the order, which states for individuals to avoid visiting certain businesses, rather than clearly stating these establishments must close. The order states:

"People shall avoid visiting bars, gyms, public swimming pools, interactive amusement venues such as bowling alleys and video arcades, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios or cosmetology salons."

According to county officials, while ordering businesses to close, as Abbott has previously ordered, is enforceable, ordering individuals to avoid certain businesses is not. Counties cannot pass orders that supersede the governor's, but county officials said they believe they are in line with Abbott's order.

Keough took to social media on Tuesday and said phase one of the governor's plan to reopen is "vague."

The judge posted two videos on Facebook reiterating his sentiments. One video shows him saying, "I'm authorizing those individual business here in Montgomery County that fit into this category Friday to open up."

In response to Keough's remarks, Gov. Abbott told news outlets that he went back and looked at his order and can see where there may be confusion. The governor said he plans to revise his order to make it clear that salons, gyms, bars, and tattoo parlors shall remain closed for the time being.