Governor Abbott Bans Large Gatherings and Restricts Bars, Restaurants, and Floating the River to Slow Spread of COVID-19 Cases in Texas

Jackson Walker

Jackson Walker

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order earlier today, June 26, banning most outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people, ordering individuals not to visit bars or use commercial water rafting or tubing services, and reducing restaurant operating capacity to 50%. Governor Abbott’s order, Executive Order GA-28, marks the Governor’s most significant step yet toward reversing the State’s march toward reopening for business as COVID-19 infection and hospitalization numbers continue to rise, especially in Texas’s urban counties.

Effective at noon on June 26, GA-28:

  • Prohibits any outdoor gathering in excess of 100 people except those that are specifically allowed by either the text of GA-28 or the mayor of the city or county judge with jurisdiction over the unincorporated area in which the gathering is to be held;
  • Prohibits individuals from visiting bars or “similar establishments” that hold a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission; and
  • Prohibits individuals from using “commercial rafting or tubing services, including rental of rafts or transportation of people for the purpose of rafting or tubing.”

Additionally, effective at 12:01 a.m. on June 29, 2020, Texas restaurants, which have been able to operate at 75% occupancy under a prior executive order, may only operate at 50% of total listed occupancy, excluding employees.

GA-28 retains prior exceptions to the Governor’s occupancy limits for a number of activities, including critical infrastructure activities designated as such by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, religious services, local government activities, child care services, and youth camps, all of which may operate without any occupancy limit. GA-28 also continues to prohibit local officials from entering public health orders that restrict services allowed by GA-28, allow gatherings prohibited by GA-28, or “expands the list or scope of services as set forth in” GA-28, and from imposing a civil or criminal penalty “for failure to wear a face covering.” GA-28 does not mention the Governor’s prior public statements that his earlier executive orders preempting local regulation allowed local officials to require businesses to adopt mandatory-mask policies for employees and visitors.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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