Abbott says bars can reopen next week at 50% capacity if counties opt in

Bars are shuttered on Austin's iconic Sixth Street. Gov. Greg Abbott hinted Monday that he could allow bars to reopen for the second time during the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar for The Texas Tribune

By Alex Samuels and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Texas Tribune

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday afternoon that county officials may begin working with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to allow bars to operate with in-person service.

Effective Oct. 14, bars in counties that opt in will be able to resume in-person services at 50% capacity, though all customers must be seated while eating or drinking. The governor will place no outdoors capacity limit at bars or similar establishments.

“It is time to open them up,” Abbott said. “If we continue to contain COVID, then these openings, just like other businesses, should be able to expand in the near future.”

The expansions apply only in the hospital regions where coronavirus patients make up 15% or less of the total people hospitalized.

In addition to bars being allowed to reopen, businesses at a 50% capacity may now expand to a 75% capacity — that includes 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.