Matagorda County Commissioner voted unanimously to allow county bars to reopen Wednesday, Oct. 14 after Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Oct. 7 that county judges have the authority to reopen the closed establishments due to COVID-19.
“We have just 10 active cases in Matagorda County and the citizens of Matagorda County are doing a good job of protecting their neighbors, families and friends and I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t reopen the bars and let them resume their business,” said Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald. “But we have to follow the rules as set forth by the state and the rules are that TABC staff will make sure all bars in the state are following state protocols. If we have bar owners that do the right thing and protect their staff and general public then we can reopen but if we don’t follow the rules, then the TABC will probably come down and shut you down.
“I just hope and pray that our bar owners will be good citizens and exercise good common sense,” McDonald said. “We all want the same thing. We all want our businesses open. Without our businesses open, we don’t have people employed and we are not helping our tax base. We have to get our entire economy running again. I have faith that our bar owners will exercise that good common sense and help us all get back to sense of normalcy.”
Effective Oct. 14, bars in counties that opt in will be able to resume in-person service at 50 percent capacity, though all customers must be seated while eating or drinking. The governor will impose no outdoors capacity limits on bars or similar establishments.
“It is time to open them up,” Abbott said in a Facebook video announcing the move. “If we continue to contain COVID, then these openings, just like other businesses, should be able to expand in the near future.”
In addition to bars being allowed to reopen, businesses currently limited to 50 percent capacity may now expand to 75 percent capacity — including establishments like movie theaters, bowling alleys, bingo halls and amusement parks.
“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 and we will be able to reopen 100%.”
Abbott’s executive order states:
Every business establishment in Texas shall operate at no more than 75 percent of the total listed occupancy of the establishment; provided, however, that:
Bars or similar establishments that hold a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), and are not restaurants as defined above in paragraph No. 6, may offer on-premises services only as described by this paragraph. A bar or similar establishment may offer on-premises services at up to 50 percent of the total listed occupancy of the establishment if:
a. the bar or similar establishment is not in an area with high hospitalizations as defined above, and the county judge of the county in which the bar or similar establishment is located files the requisite form with TABC; or
b. the bar or similar establishment is in an area with high hospitalizations as defined above, but is located in a county that has filed with DSHS, and is in compliance with, the requisite attestation form promulgated by DSHS regarding minimal cases of COVID-19, and the county judge of the county in which the bar or similar establishment is located also files the requisite form with TABC.
Patrons at bars or similar establishments operating under this paragraph may eat or drink only while seated, except that in an establishment that holds a permit from TABC as a brewer, distiller/rectifier, or winery, customers may sample beverages while standing so long as they are in a group of six people or fewer and there is at least six feet of social distancing or engineering controls, such as partitions, between groups.
Where applicable, this 50 percent occupancy limit applies only indoors; the limit does not apply to outdoor areas, events, or establishments, although social distancing and other protocols must be followed.
People shall not visit bars or similar establishments that are located in counties not included in parts (a) or (b) above. A current list of all counties reopening under this paragraph will be maintained on TABC’s website.
The use by bars or similar establishments of drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options for food and drinks remains allowed to the extent authorized by TABC.
Except as provided in this executive order or in the minimum standard health protocols recommended by DSHS, found at www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus, people shall not be in groups larger than 10 and shall maintain six feet of social distancing from those not in their group.
People over the age of 65 are strongly encouraged to stay at home as much as possible; to maintain appropriate distance from any member of the household who has been out of the residence in the previous 14 days; and, if leaving the home, to implement social distancing and to practice good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation.