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UPDATE: Nueces County Bars Can Reopen

Bars can now reopen in Nueces County, but must follow COVID-19 protocols, which limit them to 50 percent capacity.

A request to reopen bars in Nueces County was approved by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on Thursday, Oct. 15, one day after Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales sent a request seeking that permission. Her official request came a week after Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order allowing county judges to make the decision to open bars in their counties. Bars are allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity as of Wednesday, depending on local hospital capacity.

Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales announced soon after the governor’s order that she was going to do her research before making her decision. Abbott left responsibility for making sure bars follow pandemic protocols in the hands of county judges.

“I have spoken to officials at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), law enforcement, our local restaurant and bar associations, our health department, and with several owners who have opened successfully,” she said in a news release. “They are all committed to operating safely.”

Official guidelines for reopening can be found on the state’s Department of Health Services website or by clicking here to download a pdf.

Safety is the first priority in reopening bars, Canales said, adding that the community has earned the right to reopen.

“We have the option to open our bars because of the tremendous progress we have made as a community in battling the coronavirus,” she said. “Our efforts have reduced infections, hospitalizations, and deaths to the point where we are eligible to request our bars be allowed to open. We want that progress to continue, and I believe that if we follow the protocols, we can continue to make progress.”

The final decision rested with the TABC, which came through within 24 hours.

Bar owners can now "opt in" to the governor's executive order, provided they comply with state and federal health and safety protocols. Bar owners do not need pre-approval to open.

"Education is far preferable to enforcement, and we are committed to working with bar owners who are working to adhere to the protocols," reads a press release from the county. "However, the Governor’s order allows businesses to be fined, and the operating guides allow TABC to suspend a business’s license for 30 days for a first offense, and for up to 60 days for a second offense."

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