Arlington bar owners may be experiencing a sense of déjà vu, as an executive order by Texas Governor Greg Abbott placed on June 26th has forced them to shut down once again. Tarrant County ordered bars to close the first time around on March 18th along with several other businesses that were deemed nonessential as an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Abbott announced on May 18th that bars were allowed to reopen as part of Phase 2 of his plan to reopen Texas. However, his most current executive order is forcing bars to close once again, along with a few more mandates.
Abbott’s executive order requires that:
- All bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51% of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages must close, although they may still provide takeout and delivery services including alcohol.
- Restaurants must not exceed 50% of the total listed indoor occupancy, beginning Monday, June 29, 2020.
- Rafting and tubing businesses must close.
- Outdoor gatherings of 100 or more people must be approved by local governments, with certain exceptions.
This new order was driven by a sharp rise in positive COVID-19 cases in Texas. In fact, in just the two days prior to Abbott’s news over 11,000 Texans tested positive for COVID-19. While breaking the news of this new preventative measure for slowing down the spread of the virus, Abbott stated that “At this time, it is clear that the rise in cases is largely driven by certain types of activities, including Texans congregating in bars. The actions in this executive order are essential to our mission to swiftly contain this virus and enhance public health. We want this to be as limited in duration as possible”. Later that same day, Abbott also made clear that he felt that bars were likely allowed to reopen sooner than they should have when he stated that “If I could go back and redo anything, it probably would have been to slow down the opening of bars, now seeing in the aftermath of how quickly the coronavirus spread in the bar setting”.
This news must have come as a bit of a surprise to at least some, as on Monday (just four days prior) Abbott doubled down on his reluctance towards forcing businesses to close again as he stated that “closing down Texas again will always be the last option”. The swift change in Abbott’s stand on necessary measures to control the spread of this virus was motivated by the rapid rise of new cases in the state, particularly in areas like Harris County where new hospitalizations caused by COVID-19 have brought fear that hospitals could exceed patient capacity.
It’s hard to not worry about the Arlington bar and restaurant owners as well as their staff directly affected by this executive order. However, Tarrant County has not managed to stay unaffected by COVID-19 as we have seen 12,000 confirmed cases. Of those cases, 39% have been people between the ages of 25-44 years old, an age group that frequents bars more often than any other age group.
This unfortunate position Arlington residents find themselves in serves as a chance for us to continue supporting our neighborhoods. Even little things like ordering your next take-out dinner from a local restaurant can slowly help those businesses stay afloat. Beyond that, the bulk of what we can do to help the situation at hand continues to be:
- Staying at home if you are not feeling well
- Social distancing by keeping at least 6 feet away from others
- Wearing a mask in public
- Washing or sanitizing your hands often
It remains as important as ever that we as a community continue to support each other during these unfamiliar times so we can see those affected hopefully come out on top.