AUSTIN, Texas - Shortly before noon on Friday Jose Lugo brought out several loads of plywood to board up the 6th Street bar where he works as a cook. When he is done, Jose said he will be looking for another job.
“It’s hard, especially when they say now you can go back and work, and then they say, never mind,” said Lugo.
The order by Governor Greg Abbott required all bars in Texas to shut down by noon Friday. Bob Woody, chairman of the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance, said his first thought was not about his bottom-line. “We have 460 employees, so that was my immediate thought, what am I going to do with those 460 employees.”
Woody told FOX 7 Austin he understands why the governor is targeting bars. Abbott set trigger points based on increases in positive tests for COVID-19 and hospitalizations.
“If that’s the promise he made, he has to follow through with that; some of them will not make it.”
The order has an option for some bars; they can offer delivery and take-out, including alcoholic beverages. Conditions for that may hinge on serving food. The details are still being drafted by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Recent enforcement video, from TABC, of crowded bars apparently also influenced the governor. That’s a hard pill to swallow for Woody, and other bar owners, who argue they did not violate capacity rules. "I don’t think we’re the problem, so, I’m having to be pulled down by some of those who might be the problem.”
Rules for restaurants are also being adjusted. They can remain open for dine-in service but capacity cannot exceed 50%. Staying open will be difficult because restraints groups estimate the financial break-even level is at 75% occupancy.
The 50% capacity rule also applies to:
- Professional & Collegiate sports
- Swimming pools
- Water parks
- Amusement parks
- Natural Caverns
For some, the governor’s statewide order should be more targeted.
“Places that are not even seeing an impact, they should be able to stay open, and do what they need to do,” said Jason Sorrell who was visiting 6th Street with friends.
Rafting and tubing are also being shut down as part of the order. It’s a statewide approach to what San Marcos has already done. Kayaking and canoeing rental companies are not included in the order because customers are not transported in buses. An official in the governor’s office said the buses, essentially, can be rolling Petri-dishes.
There are several other exceptions to the order, with no occupancy limits for:
- Religious services
- Child-care services
- Youth camps
- Recreational sports leagues
Barbershops and salons can operate without a capacity cap as long as they have work stations six feet apart.
High school graduations, under safety conditions approved by TEA, can still go on.
Violating the order could bring a thousand dollar fine. The governor didn’t set a time limit on how long the order will remain in place.
The key, according to Bob Woody, will be group compliance. “We get there quicker, if we all suffer together, I promise you that.”
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.