Texas bars can reopen to 50% capacity, but decision up to county judges, Gov. Abbott says

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- After months of being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, bars will finally be able to reopen - but at a certain capacity, and with the approval of each county's judge.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday afternoon that bars can open up to 50% capacity beginning Oct. 14.

There are restrictions, including no standing.

In a video, Abbott said authority will be given to county judges to decide whether to open at all, but if they choose to, the capacity cannot exceed 50%.

In the same announcement, Abbott said businesses not already at 75% capacity will be allowed to increase to that amount.

Eyewitness News is reaching out to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on whether she is opting into the reopening. She responded with a tweet stating "gatherings should not take place right now."





Montgomery County Judge Mark J. Keough said Wednesday that he will allows bars to reopen at 50% following Abbott's order.

But Abbott also said in his order that bars in regions of the state with high hospitalizations for coronavirus won't be able to open. He defined those regions as areas where coronavirus patients make up more than 15% of hospital capacity.

"It is time to open up more provided that safe protocols continue to be followed," Abbott said. "If everyone continues the safe practices, Texas will be able to contain COVID-19 and we will be able to reopen 100%."

The news confirms what Abbott hinted at in a tweet on Monday with the caption, "Texans have continued to keep COVID-19 under control."

"The hospitalizations, number of new positive cases, and positivity rate remain contained," continued Abbott. "(Monday) was one of the lowest for fatalities in a long time."



The tweet also appeared to reference the reopening of bars because the tweet was paired with a GIF of two mugs of beer clinking with the word "cheers."

READ ALSO: 'If I could go back:' Gov. Abbott regrets reopening bars during COVID-19
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Gov. Abbott says he regrets opening bars up for Memorial Day weekend.



According to the latest statistics, one in five bars in the state are currently open under a restaurant license with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which means the majority of their revenue has to come from food sales.

The commission reports 1,914 bars applications have been approved statewide. In total, 2,275 have applied.

Hours after the governor posted the tweet, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins responded to the governor saying he strongly opposes reopening bars right now.



"The Dallas County Public Health Committee, made up of experts in infectious disease and public health, strongly discourages the reopening of bars at this time," wrote Jenkins. "Unfortunately, we are now seeing an increase in daily new cases and hospitalizations in North Texas."

Texas restaurants have been allowed to operate at 75% capacity for a few weeks.
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