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Texas AG's Office Warns Local Officials That Barber Shops, Hair Salons And Gyms Still Can't Reopen

A gym in downtown Mcgregor is closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Jordan Vonderhaar
For The Texas Tribune
A gym in downtown Mcgregor is closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The office of Attorney General Ken Paxton is making clear to county judges that Gov. Greg Abbott's new executive order reopening Texas businesses does not include places like barbershops, hair salons and gyms.

When Abbott announced the order Monday, he specifically said he was not yet ready to open those kinds of establishments. But a few local officials, including Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, have since questioned whether the order actually excludes those businesses. On Tuesday, Keough criticized Abbott's order as "uncommonly vague" and said he would allow all businesses to reopen unless he got further clarification from the state.

A top lawyer in Paxton's office provided that clarification in a letter to county judges Thursday. Ryan Vassar, deputy attorney general for legal counsel, wrote that Abbott's order is "neither vague nor unenforceable."

“Some services are neither essential nor reopened services for purposes of” Abbott’s order, Vassar said. “These include ‘bars, gyms, public swimming pools, interactive amusement venues such as bowling alleys and video arcades, massage establishments, tattoo studios, piercing studios or cosmetology salons.'"

"News reports have suggested that [Abbott's order] does not prohibit these businesses from opening their doors to the public," Vassar continued. "We disagree."

Abbott's order, which goes into effect Friday, lets restaurants, stores, movie theaters and malls open at 25% capacity. He has said he will announce another round of business reopenings on May 18 and suggested he could address barbershops and salons even earlier.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.

Patrick Svitek is a reporter for the Texas Tribune. He previously worked for the Houston Chronicle's Austin bureau. He graduated in 2014 from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He originally is from Fort Wayne, Indiana.