AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s restrictions on late-night dining during the New Year holiday weekend were upheld by the courts Thursday, but that didn’t stop businesses from staying open and serving patrons to ring in the new year.
Several bars on Sixth Street and Rainey Street stayed open in defiance of the local order with support from Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders.
Bar owners and operators KXAN spoke with said not being open on New Year’s Eve would hurt their bottom line during a year where most establishments have been living on the edge to begin with.
Patrick Ruby, the general manager at the Tipsy Alchemist, said his staff depends on New Year’s Eve to make ends meet.
“Our entire staff has been relying on this night, and depending on this night to pay bills,” Ruby said.
Ruby said the Tipsy Alchemist is following COVID-19 protocols and rules set forth by Gov. Abbott.
“We are reservation only, we are following all the COVID-19 restrictions, per the governor’s order,” he said.
Technically, bars are still not allowed to open in Travis County. Some have reopened classified as restaurants, however, using a loophole created by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The restrictions are essentially targeting those establishments where public health officials say they are collectively contributing to community spread of COVID-19.
The city’s dine-in restrictions prohibit restaurants from serving food or drinks indoors from 10:30 p.m. – 6 a.m. from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3 in an effort to mitigate spread of COVID-19, but state leaders have been very vocal in their opposition saying it violates Gov. Abbott’s order that doesn’t authorize local shut downs.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a lawsuit against the city over the restrictions, saying they are against Gov. Abbott’s statewide order. Judge Amy Clark Meachum of the 201st District Court heard from attorneys representing both the state and city and county about the matter Thursday, and she denied the state’s request for a temporary injunction to stop the local order.
Paxton then filed an emergency appeal, but the Third Court of Appeals refused to hear it.
Several restaurant and bar owners spoke out against the local order at a rally at 12 p.m. Thursday before the hearing.
“We gotta get through this, and we have to stop this local regulation,” said Skeeter Miller, owner of County Line. “My average employee tenure is 30 years, so those people are super important to me. We have really spent every dime we have to make sure that we keep them employed.”
Businesses face a potential $1,000 fine if found in violation of the local order, but Austin Mayor Steve Adler has said all along he’d rather have people make these decisions in a good faith effort to help others.
“The bigger concept is that each of us has the power to protect our neighbors and save lives by the choices we make as individuals. Celebrate at home, order out and tip generously. There’s no better way to bring in the new year than in solidarity with our neighbors,” Adler said in the statement.