Daily Record photo by Lance Winter
County judge to allow Hays County bars to reopen
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra announced Friday that he will allow bars within the county to reopen following Gov. Greg Abbott’s most recent executive order.
Under Abbott’s newest order and with Becerra’s approval, bars throughout Hays County will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity beginning Wednesday.
Becerra said he pulled together the county’s team of elected officials and the health department and emergency management teams to address concerns, issues and questions as well as discuss options following the governor’s announcement.
“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.”
The county stated that recommendations from local officials were to ask bar owners to consider using outdoor seating, removing 50% of tables, removing bar stools and have musical acts outside. According to guidance from the Texas Department of State Health Services, bars would have to close by 11 p.m. for the foreseeable future.
Abbott stated Wednesday that “thanks to Texans following the best health practices, our state is prepared for additional openings, including bars.”
“Working with industry leaders and our team of medical experts, the State of Texas has now developed strategies to safely open bars under certain health protocols,” Abbott said. “Opening bars does not mean that COVID-19 is no longer a threat, and most Texans are still susceptible to the virus. As bars and similar businesses begin to open, we all must remain vigilant and show personal responsibility to protect ourselves and our loved ones."
Becerra stated Friday that county mayors and local officials ask bar patrons, servers and bar owners to keep practicing safety measures that have been utilized over the past several months — wearing masks, practicing social distancing and washing 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.
Hays County has seen a continued decrease in COVID-19 cases in September and the start of October. The Hays County Local Health Department recently reported active cases below 1,000. There are currently 963 active coronavirus cases and 11 county residents are currently hospitalized by the disease.
With bars reopening, Alex Villalobos — county emergency management coordinator and chief of staff —highlighted that COVID-19 testing has expanded throughout the county and that hospitalizations have declined.
“We will remain cautious and vigilant during this shift in the governor’s and county judge’s policy,” he said.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission requires county judges to complete a form allowing the reopening of bars, according to the governor’s order. The county stated Becerra is currently working with legal counsel to submit the necessary form.