AUSTIN, Texas - The City of Austin has announced it will be limiting dine-in food service hours from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. The restrictions will begin on Thursday, December 31, and go through Sunday, January 3.
Between 6 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., venues are permitted to continue dine-in operations.
This change applies to any venue serving food or drinks from an onsite kitchen, food truck, or catering service. Venues serving food and drink may still operate between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. using drive-thru, curbside pick-up, take-out, or delivery service, according to a press conference from the city.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Dr. Mark Escott, and other local officials held a press conference to explain these restrictions in greater detail on Wednesday, December 30 at 10 a.m.
"The situation is critical," said Dr. Mark Escott, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority. "We are asking the public to stay home as much as possible and not gather with people outside their households for New Year's Eve. We are asking people to only go out to restaurants for take away, delivery, or drive-through services. We are now experiencing uncontrolled widespread community transmission of COVID-19, particularly in circumstances where masking and distancing are not possible, making bars and similar establishments extremely concerning over this holiday weekend."
These new orders only apply to businesses that serve food or drink, according to the City of Austin. All other businesses may operate as outlined in other COVID-19 Orders and Rules. Individuals who see a business operating with dine-in service past 10:30 p.m. between Dec. 31 and Jan. 3 should report the violation to Austin 3-1-1.
A criminal violation of this order is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, but not by confinement.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a letter to Mayor Adler and Judge Brown warning against the orders. Paxton's letter is as follows:
Dear Judge Brown and Mayor Adler:
Last night, you issued city and county orders enacting a four-day shutdown of dine-in food and beverage services from 10:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. from December 31, 2020 through January 3, 2021. See City Order No. 20201229-024; County Judge Order 2020-24. Your orders violate Governor Abbott’s Executive Order No. GA-32. You must rescind or modify the local orders immediately or face imminent legal action from the State.
Executive Order No. GA-32 "supersede[s] any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster, but only to the extent that such a local order restricts services allowed by th[e] executive order."
GA-32 at 5. Under GA-32, "[e]very business establishment in Texas shall operate" under certain protocols, but without limitations on those establishments’ hours of operation. Yet your orders shut down dine-in food and beverage services during specific dates and times.
The orders "restrict services allowed by" GA-32 and are thus unlawful and unenforceable.
Again, you must immediately rescind or, at a minimum, modify your orders to fully comply with GA-32. We are open to conferring with you before 12:30 p.m. today. Otherwise I, on behalf of the State of Texas, will take legal action against you.
Attorney General of Texas