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Which Austin-Area Counties Will Reopen Bars?

Nine out of ten counties plan on letting bars open back up

A closed bar in Austin
A closed bar in Austin
Sergio Flores/AFP via Getty Images
Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

Texas bars are allowed to reopen for on-site services starting on October 14, according to a new order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott, but the governor is ultimately leaving final decisions to each county judge. These judges will have to decide whether or not they want to opt into these reopenings. If so, they’d have to inform the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), which will then share reopening guidelines.

If a county judge does decide to reopen bars in their district, the bars will have to operate with 50 percent indoor capacities, implement table service, close off dance floors, and require masks for guests and employees. Brewery taprooms and winery/distillery tasting rooms can let customers stand at counters if they are sampling beverages. Currently, counties with less 15 percent or less hospitalizations in their regions are able to reopen bars, based on an earlier order by the governor issued last month (under this order, restaurants were able to expand their indoor dining room capacity limits to 75 percent).

Since Texas is huge, Eater Austin is tracking which Austin-area and -adjacent county judges will, won’t, or haven’t decided on whether or not they will reopen bars in their respective areas.

Travis County


County Judge Sam Biscoe has decided against reopening bars in the county, based on the recommendation of Interim Health Authority-Travis County Dr. Mark Escott and the rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past ten days. He’s going to revisit the issue in 14 days with the doctor.
(Includes Austin, Lakeway, Manor, Bee Cave, Sunset Valley, and Manchaca)

Williamson County


County Judge Bill Gravel Jr. is one of two judges on this list so far who’s announced he will allow bars to reopen in his area. “Our county residents have shown that they can be smart and protect themselves and others,” he wrote in a statement issued today. “This is another step forward for us as a community, and we can do this safely and wisely.”
(Includes Round Rock, Georgetown, Leander, Taylor, and Hutto)

Hays County


County Judge Ruben Becerra will reopen bars, after consulting with local authorities last week. “The majority of mayors and other elected officials were supportive but cautious,” he writes in a statement shared with Eater. “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.”.
(Includes Dripping Springs, Driftwood, Buda, Wimberly, Kyle, and San Marcos)

Caldwell County


County Judge Hoppy Haden is allowing bars to reopen, according to a letter he issued last Friday, but noted that “opening bars does not meant that COVID-19 is no longer a threat,” as he noted.
(Includes Lockhart and Lulling)

Bastrop County


The Elgin Courier reports that County Judge Paul Pape will allow bars to reopen, and confirmed by the judge’s office.
(Includes Elgin, Bastrop, Cedar Creek, and Smithville)

Burnet County


County Judge James Oakley connected with local authorities and looked at hospitalization numbers (according to the Daily Trib), and has decided to permit bars to reopen next week, as he told Eater.
(Includes Burnet, Marble Falls, and Spicewood)

Comal County


County Judge Sherman Krause is reopening bars, as reported by Community Impact. Before he came to this decision, he connected with city mayors, the TABC, and local law enforcement.
(Includes New Braunfels, Canyon Lake, Spring Branch, and Gruene)

Gillespie County


While County Judge Mark Stroeher hasn’t issued any statement, bars can reopen in the area, according to the TABC map indicating which counties have opted into these allowances.
(Includes Fredericksburg and Luckenbach)

Llano County


County Judge Ron Cunningham will reopen bars in the county, according to a statement shared on Llano’s official website.
(Includes Llano and Horseshoe Bay)

Blanco County


County Judge Brett Bray submitted the official reopening form to the TABC regarding reopening bars.
(Includes Johnson City, Hye, and Blanco)

Update, October 14, 10:29, a.m.: This article, originally published on October 8, has been updated to include new county judge decisions.