Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra will allow bars to reopen under Governor Greg Abbott’s latest COVID-related Executive Order based in part on feedback from local elected officials.
“When I saw the new order, I immediately pulled together our team of local Hays County elected officials, as well as our health department and our emergency management team, Alex Villalobos, Mike Jones and Tammy Crumley, to hear their concerns, issues and questions then discuss options,” Becerra said.
Recommendations from the local officials were to, among other things, ask bar owners to consider utilizing outdoor seating, remove 50 percent of tables, remove bar stools and have musical acts outside. Guidance from the Texas Department of State Health Services indicates bars would need to close by 11 p.m. for the foreseeable future.
Becerra said hearing the support, ideas and plans for moving ahead with the reopening helped inform his decision.
“The majority of mayors and other elected officials were supportive but cautious,” Becerra said. “They want to be able to tell business owners they can get back to work and earning a living but recognize that if we do, the process must be deliberate and thoughtful. This is a public safety issue and our goal is to always protect public safety.”
He added that mayors and other local officials want bar patrons, servers and bar owners to continue practicing all the safety measures everyone has been doing over the past several months, including wearing masks, staying distanced from others and washing their hands.
“Our health department team said they would support the reopening if bar owners and patrons are able to continue making safety a priority,” Becerra said.
Emergency Management Coordinator and Chief of Staff Alex Villalobos said the county has expanded COVID-19 testing throughout Hays County. He added that hospitalization cases are on the decline.
“We will remain cautious and vigilant during this shift in the Governor’s and County Judge’s policy,” he said.
According to the Governor’s Order, TABC requires county judges to complete a form allowing the reopening, which Becerra said he is working with the county’s legal counsel to submit. No date has been set for when the bars can officially reopen; more information will be forthcoming.
Governor Greg Abbott issued an Executive Order to open bars and similar establishments at up to 50% capacity in conjunction with county officials. In hospital regions with low COVID-19 hospitalizations, County Judges will be able to opt their county into opening bars beginning October 14th, provided they assist in enforcing health protocols.