Governor Abbott Issues Executive Order to Expand Business Capacities and Reopen Bars in Qualifying Counties

Jackson Walker
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Jackson Walker

On October 7, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order, GA-32, that will begin to reopen bars up to 50% capacity—with the approval of relevant county officials.

Texas bars were initially ordered to close mid-March with the declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and allowed to reopen at 25% capacity on May 22 and then 50% capacity on June 3. After a spike in coronavirus cases, the Governor then re-shuttered them on June 26. Bars that have not been able to reclassify as restaurants have been completely closed since then.

In hospital regions with low COVID-19 hospitalizations, which the Governor defines as a region where COVID-19 hospitalizations are less than 15% of hospital capacity, county judges will be able to opt their county into opening bars beginning October 14, provided the counties assist in enforcing health protocols. Bars in regions of the state with high hospitalizations for coronavirus will not yet be able to open.

Bars are expected to follow the same distance and seating protocols that restaurants follow, and all customers must be seated while eating or drinking. There will be no outdoors capacity limits imposed on bars or similar establishments.

In addition to bars being allowed to reopen, businesses currently limited to 50% capacity may now expand to 75% capacity, including movie theaters, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and amusement parks.

A summary of business openings, details on minimum standard health protocols laid out by the Texas Department of State Health Services, and additional guidelines for the changes effective October 14, 2020, are being updated on the Open Texas website. This executive order will remain in effect indefinitely.

County judges in many of Texas’ most populated counties, including those covering Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, have already announced that they will not yet allow bars in their respective counties to reopen.

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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