AUSTIN (KXAN) — With permission to open on Friday at no more than 25% capacity, bars across Central Texas are taking extra precautions to welcome guests safely.
In a news conference at the Texas Capitol on Monday afternoon, Abbott announced that more Texas businesses will be allowed to either reopen or open at larger capacity.
Guidelines for reopening bars
For bars, the state has established the following guidelines:
- People should remain seated at tables when inside
- No tables of more than six people
- Dancing is “discouraged”
- Hand sanitizer stations should be at entryways
- There should be six feet of distance between parties
Gov. Abbott says these rules will be enforced by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. If local officials receive a complaint about bars out of compliance, the TABC will investigate. The Commission has the power to suspend a bar’s liquor license for 30 days on the first offense and 60 days for the second.
Some bar owners are going beyond the governor’s guidelines to ensure safety for guests.
Steve Basile, owner of B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub on 6th Street and the Mueller neighborhood has created a “health captain” position. Employees will each take a turn during the shift ensuring vacant spaces are sanitized and disinfected.
The health captain will collect employee self-health check lists at the door to make sure they are symptom-free and have taken the necessary precautions to safely work.
Basile said frequent contact surfaces, such as door handles and faucets, will be frequently sanitized. The Health Captain will also be walking the floor ensuring that guests are maintain proper social distances.
Other precautions Basile is taking is requiring employees to be masked at all times, increasing table spacing and ensuring group sizes remain small.
“We’d rather overdo it with respect to cleanliness and sanitation than underdo it,” Basile said. “Keeping that visible is important for customers, too.”
Guests dining at B.D. Riley’s on Friday confirmed that sentiment. While happy to simply get out of the house for a cold drink, they said it was reassuring to see such careful measures in place.
“We both just wanted to come back here and get away and kind of spread our legs a little bit,” said James Maxwell, who was visiting Austin from Dallas with his cousin. “It gives us a sense that we are getting back to normal.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is already out on the streets, making sure bars are complying. Agents will be informing and educating before dishing out penalties. In the past, Governor Greg Abbott said that any bar found out of compliance will have their liquor license suspended 30 days on the first instance and 60 days for the second infraction.
“We are going to have folks out there doing open and undercover inspections just to make sure people will voluntarily comply with the governor’s guidelines,” said Chris Porter, TABC’s public information officer.