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Gov. Abbott Says Bars Can Reopen Next Week At 50% Capacity If Counties Opt In

A bartender waits for customers behind the bar at Buck Wild on West Sixth Street in downtown Austin.
Jordan Vonderhaar for the Texas Tribune
A bartender waited for customers at Buck Wild in downtown Austin after bars reopened in May. Gov. Greg Abbott closed bars down in June after a spike of COVID-19 cases in the state.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday afternoon that county officials may begin working with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to allow bars to operate with in-person service.

Effective Oct. 14, bars in counties that opt in will be able to resume in-person services at 50% capacity, though all customers must be seated while eating or drinking. The governor will place no outdoors capacity limit at bars or similar establishments.

“It is time to open them up,” Abbott said. “If we continue to contain COVID, then these openings, just like other businesses, should be able to expand in the near future.”

The expansions apply only in the hospital regions where coronavirus patients make up 15% or less of the total people hospitalized.

In addition to bars being allowed to reopen, businesses at a 50% capacity may now expand to a 75% capacity — that includes establishments like movie theaters, bowling alleys, bingo halls and amusement parks.

“It is time to open up more provided that safe protocols continue to be followed,” Abbott said.

Alex Samuels is a reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune and a journalism senior at The University of Texas at Austin. She came to the Tribune in fall 2016 as a newsletters fellow, writing the daily Brief and contributing to the water, education and health newsletters. Alex previously worked for USA Today College as both a collegiate correspondent and their first-ever breaking news correspondent. She has also worked for the Daily Dot where she covered politics, race, and social issues.