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Texas Supreme Court Blocks Austin And Travis County's Ban On Indoor And Outdoor Dining Over New Year's

Lazarus Brewing Co. in East Austin shortly after the state reopened bars and restaurants following initial shutdowns due to the coronavirus.
Lazarus Brewing Co. in East Austin shortly after the state reopened bars and restaurants following initial shutdowns due to the coronavirus.

Updated on Jan. 1 at 8 p.m.:

The Texas Supreme Court ordered the City of Austin and Travis County to lift their COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants late Friday.

The all-Republican court sided with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed the lawsuit over local COVID-19 prevention measures. Amid a record-breaking statewide surge in cases, Austin and Travis County attempted to ban late-night, dine-in service at bars and restaurants for a three-night period.

The court order comes as state data show more Texans hospitalized with COVID-19 than ever before.

Previously:

A state district court judge has ruled in favor of Austin and Travis County's local orders that require restaurants and bars to limit indoor and outdoor dining over New Year's.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton challenged the local curfew, arguing it violated Gov. Greg Abbott's statewide rules on COVID-19. In her ruling today, state district Judge Amy Clark Meachum said the state "didn't demonstrate probable right to relief nor imminent and irreparable harm" in its challenge.

The local orders ban indoor and outdoor dining between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. today through Sunday. Businesses can still offer drive-thru, takeout and delivery orders within that timeframe.

Attorneys representing Austin and Travis County argued that, because the ban doesn't shutdown businesses outright, it is within the governor's orders.

Attorneys for the state argued Gov. Greg Abbott's emergency orders related to COVID-19 superseded local orders.

Austin and Travis County announced the dine-in hour restrictions on Tuesday, and, after they received criticism from Abbott, Paxton's office filed a lawsuit on Wednesday.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown said in a statement that the ruling "will help our community slow the spread of COVID-19, while allowing businesses to safely continue their operations through takeout, drive-thru, and delivery service options."

"I encourage everyone in Travis County to order food for takeout from a local restaurant and to celebrate the New Year safely at home tonight," he said.

A few hours after the ruling, Abbott tweeted out a "formal statement" directing bars and restaurants to remain open despite the local orders.

Paxton's office appealed the decision to a state appellate court seeking emergency relief. That court turned down the request late Thursday.

The attorney general's office asked the Texas Supreme Court to review the case on Friday morning.

This story has been updated.
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