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Bexar County Bars To Reopen Amid COVID-19 Concerns. What's The Plan To Mitigate Community Spread?

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Midnight Swim on St. Mart's Strip shortly after bars closed in March
Dominic Anthony Walsh
Texas Public Radio
Bars have been closed in Texas since July, in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of Oct. 14, bars in Bexar County can reopen, with several restrictions.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced bars would be allowed to reopen Oct. 14 with approval from county judges and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, as long as COVID-19 hospitalizations are less than 15% of total capacity.

Many of Bexar County's roughly 3,000 bars have been operating as restaurants per a September rule to mitigate pandemic-related financial fallout. This week the county's remaining 425 watering holes are expected to be given the green light to also reopen at 50%, pending TABC approval.

The order requires bars to implement a health and safety policy, prohibit congregating indoors, enforce and mask requirement and social distance between groups, and ensure ventilation systems are operating correctly. Bar employees are to be actively encouraged to stay home if sick or exposed to COVID-19.

Failure to adhere to required safety protocols could result in a fine up to $1,000. TABC rules and restrictions also apply.

Judge Nelson Wolff made his decision after consulting with the San Antonio's Metropolitan Health District and a citizen advisory committee. Wolff said he would file with TABC on Tuesday to "opt in" to opening bars and that it could take up to 48 hours for the state to finalize that order.

What’s being done to make sure that bars re-openings don’t negatively affect community health outcomes? Could reopening bars impede Bexar County's progress toward flattening the curve?

Why are bars considered high risk for COVID-19 exposure? How will TABC and local agencies enforce county- and state-level requirements? What should Texas bar patrons and employees know and do to stay safe?


  • Dr. Jason Rosenfeld, DrPH, MPH, assistant professor of medicine and assistant director of global health at UT Health San Antonio; co-chair of the COVID 19 Community Response Coalition's Education & Enforcement workgroup
  • Chris Porter, spokesperson for the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission

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*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, October 20.

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Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon