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Texas Restaurant Patios Aren’t Included in That 25 Percent Capacity Limit

Tables just need to be placed six feet apart and groups are limited to six people or less

The reopened patio at EastSide Tavern
The reopened patio at EastSide Tavern
EastSide Tavern/Facebook
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 restaurants have been allowed to reopen their dining rooms at 25 percent of their pre-pandemic seating capacity since last Friday. However, capacity limits don’t apply to patios, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

During a press conference held on May 5, Abbott clarified that outdoor seating areas — patios, courtyards, porches, sidewalk areas — can accommodate as many as people as before, just as long as tables are spaced six feet apart and parties are limited to six people or fewer.

This means that that restaurants with larger outdoor spaces will be able to accomodate for more than what the 25 percent numbers would have allowed.

There is no set plan to reopen bars, which typically consist of smaller indoor spaces, as of yet. Bars “bring people close together in a closed space, a setting that promotes the transmission of infectious diseases,” Abbott said during the press conference.

Abbott is, however, asking bar owners to send along details on how their businesses could potentially implement social distancing regulations and other mitigation efforts in safe ways. “Not all bars are the same,” he added, noting that social distancing would work differently for a larger bar versus a small bar.

The press conference was held shortly after an audio audio snippet of the governor discussing that he knew that reopening businesses in the state would increase COVID-19 cases was leaked to the public, according to the file shared by nonprofit media organization Progress Texas.

The day before Texas was set to reopen, the state had seen its highest death toll related to the virus, as reported by the Texas Tribune. Currently, there are 33,369 positive cases of COVID-19 and have been 906 deaths in Texas.

The full transcript of the leaked call snippet runs below:

“How do we know reopening businesses won’t result in the faster spread of more cases of COVID-19? Listen, the fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening — whether you want to call it a reopening of business or just a reopening of society — in the aftermath of something like this, that actually will lead to an increase in spread. It’s almost ipso facto, the more that you get people out there, the greater the possibility there is for transmission.”

During the press conference, Gov. Abbott also announced that hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, and tanning salons can reopen on May 8, where a single stylist will work on a single customer at a time, while gyms and workout clubs can reopen on May 18, with 25 percent indoor capacity as long as showers and locker rooms remain closed, and equipment is sanitized between each use.