Abbott allowing bars to reopen if county judge opts in, but restaurants still have less restrictions
Updated: Oct 14
On, October 7, 2020, Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA-32 which allows businesses that do not qualify as a restaurant to open for on-premise services starting October 14th, if their county judge applies to - and is approved by - the TABC. The TABC map indicating the Texas counties where bars can reopen can be found here.
However, even though some bars will be allowed to finally open, they will have to operate under more significant restrictions while GA-32 is in effect than businesses that qualify as a restaurant.
Health Protocols Checklist
Some of the major differences between how bars vs restaurants are allowed to operate under GA-32:
Bars must stop serving alcohol at 11pm;
Bars may only operate at 50% capacity indoors, whereas restaurants in counties not listed on this wepage (which lists areas of high COVID-19 hospitalizations) may operate at up to 75% capacity;
Bars may only allow groups of 6 at each table (except for samplings by manufacturers), but restaurants can allow groups of up to 10;
Also, according to the health protocols checklist for bars, dance floors in bars have to remain closed, but the restaurant checklist does not include this restriction.
The 50% occupancy limit does not apply to outdoor areas of a bars licensed premise, but social distancing rules and other protocols must still be followed. The TABC has waived the fees to temporarily expand a permittee's licensed premise (more information on temporarily expanding a licensed premise can be found here).
Since a business may operate with less restrictions if it qualifies under the definition of a restaurant under GA-32, permitees should consider whether operating as a restaurant or bar is more beneficial under their business model. The TABC industry notice on qualifying as a restaurant can be found here.