Operating in Texas After a Reopening: A Predictive Recommendation
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
While the reopening of bars is still up in the air with the rising COVID-19 cases, it is likely bars across Texas will be given the green light to begin operations again before the end of this pandemic. Here are some suggestions in operating your bar if this occurs. In the meantime, however, if your location has permanent food service facilities (or a modified food truck) and less than 51% alcohol sales since April 1, 2020, or if you're willing to change your business model, one of our TABC attorneys may be able to help you reopen your business for dine-in services. This includes if you currently have a 51% red gun-sign.
50% Capacity and Bar Stools
One of the primary concerns the TABC and Governor’s Office had in the May reopening of bars was implementing social distancing among patrons. To help facilitate this, it could be a beneficial preemptive step to order enough bar stools to accommodate 50% of your location’s capacity. If the same rules will apply as they did during the May-June reopening, patrons can only be served while seated at a bar stool. Groups of bar stools will need to be six feet apart to accommodate social distancing requirements. Engaging in this preemptive step can help you operate according to their standards faster, especially if the regulations remain the same or similar.
Since Governor Abbott issued the statewide policy of wearing masks in public and with some local governments issuing fines for not wearing a mask, bar re-openings will likely be contingent on mask-wearing policies. While a patron cannot wear a mask the entire time they are in the establishment, as they will be consuming food or drink while in your establishment, bar owners will need to adopt strict policies on patrons wearing masks when they're not seated. Many places across the country have faced customers who will use their food or drink as an excuse for not wearing a mask, and allowing this may lead to your location being shut down or a third bar shut down. Instructing employees to be vigilant in telling customers to wear their masks if the customers are not actively consuming food or drink or designating employees to watch for mask-wearing among standing patrons can help keep your location open.
Maintaining Alcohol Sales at Less Than 51% of Total Sales
When bars reopened in May, there was no warning from the TABC that alcohol sales would have to be less than 51% in order to remain open after June 26. Without this warning, bar owners who had more than 51% in alcohol sales were not given the opportunity to operate because they did not qualify as “restaurants” under the definition of the June 26th Executive Order. To prevent this from occurring again in the event of a third shutdown of bars, attempt to maintain alcohol sales at 51% of total sales. If the same rules apply, to-go alcohol sales will not count toward your total alcohol sales. Monitoring your sales can provide you with a decreased chance of business interruption in the event of a third shutdown. In addition, you could also apply for a food and beverage permit if your location qualifies for one.
While these are all speculative based on the past regulations and the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, these suggestions can help keep your location remain open once bars are allowed to re-open. The goal should be to stay open, and following these guidelines can help keep your location open through measures that will benefit bar owners. Being proactive and anticipating future shutdowns can help prepare you for a couple of future scenarios as this pandemic progresses.