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You don’t have to drink at home anymore—Texas Gov. Abbott is reopening bars, with conditions

Starting next week, Gov. Greg Abbott will allow Texas bars to reopen at 50% capacity indoors in counties that choose to opt in and where COVID patients account for no more than 15% of hospitalizations.


"It is time to open up more provided that safe protocols are followed," Abbott said in a live Facebook announcement on Wednesday.

Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe intends to take the next several days to confer with the county attorney's office and the Austin-Travis County Health Authority to determine the safest route, according to a statement.

Certain health protocols must be observed, at a minimum, at those bars that reopen, according to the governor's reopening strike force.

Bar customers may not loiter at the bar and should remain seated at their tables, groups must maintain six feet of distance from each other unless partitions are in place, dance floors must remain closed, and contactless payment is encouraged.

Texas Bar and Nightlife Alliance President Michael Klein issued a critical statement in response to the governor's announcement, saying he has "passed the buck" to county judges.

"[T]his is a death sentence for so many of our members under the jurisdiction of county judges who still believe that we should be locked down like we were in March and April, despite all the progress we've made coexisting with this virus," he said.

New COVID cases and related hospitalizations are declining in Austin. However, Texas has reported more COVID cases than any other state in the last week, according to a data analysis by the New York Times.

Local health officials have repeatedly stressed that allowing bars to reopen would be unwise given their current ways of operating.

"It's unmistakable that when people come together face-to-face without masks on for longer than 15 minutes, the risk of transmission is going to increase," Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said Wednesday. "So there would have to be substantial changes in how bars function to make them safe."

Abbott initially closed bars in March before reopening them in May. But when COVID cases surged statewide in late June, he closed them again.

Last month, Abbott announced restaurants and other businesses could increase their capacity to 75% but that bars would have to remain closed because they were "nationally recognized as COVID-spreading locations."

Some Austin bars have already reopened under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's guidance that allows them to reclassify as restaurants if a majority of their sales come from food rather than alcohol.

But this approach hasn't worked for everyone, and many industry groups and bars owners have criticized the governor, saying their businesses and service industry workers' jobs are at stake.

Abbott said reopening bars this time around will be more successful because Texans are more aware of protective measures, the protocols in place have improved and the state is better equipped to test and trace new cases.

"Opening bars does not mean that COVID is no longer a threat," he said. "We simply now know better how to protect ourselves from getting COVID."

Abbott also announced that other businesses—including amusement parks, movie theaters, zoos, aquariums and bowling alleys—may open at 50% capacity on Oct. 14.

More:

Everything we know about COVID-19 in Austin right now: new cases, bars, schools

Popular

Tito's releases (not so?) ugly sweater line for the holidays, profits to charity

Tito's Handmade Vodka

Show your love for Tito's and for the community this year with a wide selection of not that ugly, uglyish, ugly, uglier, and ugliest holiday sweaters.

There's lots choose from, and plenty of accessories like scarves and socks, plus gear for your dog, too.

All of the items can be purchased online or at the Love, Tito’s Retail Store in Austin, TX. 100% of all net proceeds from online or in-store purchases go to one of the nonprofits we’ve teamed up with.

Click here to see the entire collection in the Tito's store.

Mac and Cheese Fest and Free Art Exhibit
Waterloo Greenway, Good Vibrations Installation


🗓 All weekend

🎨 Creek Show Art Exhibit

Check out this highly anticipated art exhibition with illuminated art along Waller Creek. Tickets are free and the event includes food vendors, dazzling lights, live music, and hands-on activities

All weekend 6 p.m - 10 p.m | 📍Waterloo Park

✨ Mozart's Light Show

This iconic holiday tradition lights up for the first time this holiday season starting this weekend! Reserve your spot for an enchanting light and sound performance, delicious hot cocoa, sweet treats, and some overall fun with your friends or family. The show runs till January 6th.

6 p.m and 9 p.m | 📍Mozart's Coffee Roasters - 3825 Lake Austin Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

🗓 Saturday

🥊 Kickboxing in the Park

This fitness event is free and open to the public. Get your morning started right with a "Fitness in the park" class for kickboxing! The class will be led by certified instructors and is a great way to get a cardio workout in while also honing your self-defense skills.

10 a.m - 11 a.m | 📍 Metz Park

🛍 The Front Market

Support local LBGTQ+ and female artists at this outdoor market with over 150 vendors. Get your holiday shopping out of the way at this event, with vendors for food trucks, handmade goods, raffles, hands on workshops and activities, and more.

11 a.m - 5 p.m | 📍Ani's Day and Night - 7107 E Riverside Drive, Austin, TX 78741

🗓 Sunday

🧀 Mac and Cheese Fest

Did someone say cheese?! If you're like me and always willing to get your hands on a bowl of mac and cheese, then this event is for you. Check out the Mac and Cheese festival happening this weekend to decide which vendor has. the best mac and cheese for yourself, and enjoy the bar with creative cocktails while you're at it. Tickets start at $45.

11 a.m - 3 p.m | 📍Lantana Place - 7415 Southwest Parkway