Texas bars that reopen on October 14 — as part of the updated executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott last week — will have to stop selling alcohol at 11 p.m. The cutoff time only applies to bars in counties whose judges have opted into reopening its bars, as the governor has left that decision up to those local officials. At this point, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, who oversees Austin, hasn’t made a ruling yet. Only Texas counties in hospital regions where COVID-19-related hospitalizations are less than 15 percent are allowed to reopen nonessential businesses, including bars this week.
Bars that have already changed their permitting to reclassify as restaurants in order to open for on-site business right now will not have to adhere to this 11 p.m. cutoff, as confirmed by Chris Porter, the public information officer for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). This means bars currently operating as restaurants can still serve alcohol past that cutoff time. Over 1,000 of the state’s 8,000 bars have reopened as restaurants, as reported by the Texas Tribune last week.
Bars, which are categorized as businesses making more than 51 percent of their sales in alcohol, were able to apply for restaurant permitting if they upped their food sales by expanding on-site kitchens, partnering with a food truck, or selling prepackaged foods.
However, if these bars with restaurant permits decide to go back to their previous permits because they don’t want to maintain those food sales and want to operate as just bars, they would have to follow that 11 p.m. cutoff rule.
Porter noted that the governor’s office worked with the Open Texas task force’s health specialists to determine these requirements of the bars reopen checklist. Eater has reached out to the governor’s office for more information about the 11 p.m. cutoff.
Other requirements for reopening bars include operating with 50 percent indoor capacity limits, having bar guests sit at tables (rather than mingle about), closing dance floors, mandating facial masks for employees and guests (the latter when not seated at tables), and limiting seated parties to six people. Taprooms and tasting rooms at breweries, wineries, and distilleries are allowed to have customers standing at counters while partaking in samples of beer, wine, or liquor.