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Abbott Says Bars Can Reopen In Texas Counties That Give The OK

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GABRIEL C. PÉREZ / KUT

Texas bars can reopen at 50% capacity starting next Wednesday if the county judge where they are located approves, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday.

County judges can opt their county into the reopenings, but they have to enforce health protocols. For example, dance floors at bars must remain closed, and customers have to be seated while eating or drinking.

"Even as more businesses have opened and students return to school, Texans have shown we can contain the spread of COVID-19," Abbott said in a statement. "Thanks to Texans following the best health practices, our state is prepared for additional openings, including bars.” 

Patrons at bars will have to wear masks when they aren’t seated at a table, and tables must be limited to six people or fewer.

Shortly after the announcement, a spokesman said Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe would take the next several days to review the order and determine what authority local governments have.

"Additionally, he will continue to confer with the Austin-Travis County Health Authority to chart out the County's safest route to ensuring a healthy population and economy," the spokesman said.

In Williamson County, Judge Bill Gravell said he would opt in.

“It is time for all of our businesses to be open to serve our public while following the Governor’s health protocols to be safe," he said in a statement. "Our county residents have shown that they can be smart and protect themselves and others."

The governor has also signed an order allowing all other businesses operating at 50% capacity to increase their occupancy levels to 75% starting next Wednesday. This will include places such as amusement parks, bingo halls and bowling alleys. The expansions can happen only in counties where COVID-19 hospitalizations make up less than 15% of hospital capacity.

Abbott  allowed many businesses – like retailers, restaurants and gyms – to expand to 75% capacity last month. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Got a tip? Email Marisa Charpentier at mcharpentier@kut.org . Follow her on Twitter @marisacharp.

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