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Texas Eateries, Retailers And Other Businesses Can Reopen Friday. Here's The Rules They Must Follow.

Drone photo of an empty parking lot at the Barton Creek Mall in Austin.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr.
The Texas Tribune
An empty parking lot at the Barton Creek Mall in Austin during the coronavirus pandemic. April 2, 2020.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen Texas will allow some businesses — like retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls — to open as early as Friday, with new rules outlined by the governor's taskforce.

Abbott also said a second wave of openings and looser restrictions that will include barbershops, hair salons, bars and gyms could go into effect as early as May 18, as long as the state sees "two weeks of data to confirm no flare-up of COVID-19."

Here’s how Friday’s reopening plan will work.

Retailers And Malls

Malls and retailers across Texas can reopen but must keep capacity limited to 25%. But for rural counties with less than five confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, retailers can serve up to 50% of their regular capacity.

Areas including food court dining space, play areas and interactive displays must remain closed.

Retailers can also offer customers in-store pick up or get items delivered by mail or to their doorstep.

The task force recommends stores implement either specific pick up times for at-risk customers or that workers take their purchase out to the customer’s car.


On Friday, dine-in service is back on at restaurants but capacity is limited to 25%. But for rural counties with less than five confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, restaurants can serve up to 50% of their regular capacity.

Bars are to remain closed, even if they offer food.

Only six people will be allowed at a table and parties will be seated at least 6 feet apart from each other.

Patrons who choose to dine-in at a restaurant should expect a few new practices: disposable menus, condiments served upon request and in single-use portions (a side of ketchup instead of a ketchup bottle), buffets that aren’t self serve and a hand sanitizing station at the restaurant entrance.

Valet service is also suspended except for cars with placards or plates for disabled parking.

Restaurants can still provide to-go and delivery service.

Restaurants that reopen dine-in service are encouraged to have an employee open doors to limit how many people come in contact with it and and employees should disinfect surfaces and store items.

Movie Theaters

Despite the go-ahead to reopen movie theaters at 25% capacity, and 50% in rural counties with less than five confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, some of the state’s largest theater chains said they may not reopen until the summer.

Moviegoers who find an open theater will have to stay at least two empty seats apart from each other and there must be an empty row between customers. If you attend a movie with people you live with you can all sit together but must have two empty seats on either side of the group. If you want to watch a movie with someone you don’t live with, you can sit in the same row but still two seats apart.

Seats and other frequently touched surfaces must be cleaned between each screening.

Theaters with food options must follow similar protocol as restaurants with disposable menus, single-use cutlery and condiments and take home pencils and notepads for places that require customers to write down their order.

Outdoor Sports

Texans can only play sports that don’t include contact with other players and only four people can play at a time. That rules out most sports including basketball, soccer and football. Public swimming pools must remain closed.

The governor’s group noted special instructions for golf courses, which can open. Golf carts must be cleaned between uses, only one person is allowed per cart, unless you’re of the same household and golfers must keep 6 feet apart.

Churches and Places of Worship

Since stay-at-home orders were implemented in early April churches and places of worship have been allowed to stay open as long as they followed social distancing guidelines.

Places of worship can still hold service but the governor’s task force encourages at-risk groups to watch service remotely. Religious institutions should also have designated services or areas for at-risk people who choose to attend in-person service.

Anyone who attends a religious service must sit at least two empty seats apart from other worshippers not in their households, and there should be an empty row between each person.

Museums And Libraries

Public museums and libraries must have permission from their local government to reopen. Once up and running, museums and libraries can only allow 25% capacity and must close interactive areas, like exhibits and play areas. Capacity jumps to 50% in rural counties with less than five confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Juan Pablo Garnham reports on urban affairs for the Texas Tribune and is based in Dallas. In the past, he worked as senior producer for the podcast In The Thick, editor of CityLab Latino and City Hall reporter for El Diario in New York. He has also taught at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. He is from Santiago, Chile. Read more about Juan Pablo.