Most of the 3,000 bars in the county have already reclassified as restaurants, allowing them to reopen so long as they serve food. An emergency order filed Thursday by the judge will allow the remaining 425 to begin serving again.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an October 7 order allowing bars in many counties to reopen, but only in cases where county judges opt in. On the day of the order, Wolff said he needed a week to analyze the public health implications of the change.
During that time, a subcommittee of the COVID-19 Community Response Coalition recommended new safety measures, which Wolff said will apply to the reopening. Those include removing bar stools, increasing circulation of outdoor air and limiting on-premise standing and congregating as much as possible.
While the group recommended occupancy of newly reopened bars reach no more than 50% capacity both inside and outside, Wolff said the outdoor requirement would violate Abbott’s order, making it unenforceable by the county.
While Wolff plans to file his order with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on Thursday, it’s unclear exactly when it will go into effect. During the briefing, the judge said he hopes it can go into effect early next week.
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