TABC records: 27 Hays County Bars facing another shutdown with rising COVID-19 hospitalizations


HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) —The Hays County judge is ordering bars that don’t meet qualifications to operate as restaurants to shut down once again under state restrictions from Gov. Greg Abbott.

Gov. Abbott’s order places 50% occupancy limitations when more than 15% of overall hospitalizations in any trauma area are COVID-19 hospitalizations for seven consecutive days. Trauma Service Area O, which includes Hays County and the surrounding Austin area, exceeded that 15% threshold from January 3 through January 9.

Judge Ruben Becerra’s order went into effect on Sunday at midnight.

You don’t hear as many beers being cracked open, or poured at AquaBrew in San Marcos these days.

“We’re not getting that many guests,” AquaBrew owner Carlos Russo said. “We’re getting an average of 10 people an hour.”

Russo said having to shut down again would not be feasible. 

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “We’re not going to break the law or anything like that, so if we’re asked to shut down, we would shut down.”

Russo’s place is a bar and restaurant, but per the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), it’s considered just a bar, since records show their food sales are less than 51% of total sales.

“Our food sales are external, we’re not collecting receipts on it,” Russo said. “But obviously we’re going to have to change that if we want to stay open.”

According to TABC, there are 27 bars in Hays County in the same boat.

“It’s our role within the San Marcos Police Department to work to identify possible offenses, and then ultimately have TABC take enforcement,” San Marcos Police Chief Stan Stanridge said. 

During such uncertain times, Russo said he’s come up with a new business model in a new building for financial security.

“We’re sort of making the migration to a more production-centric facility,” Russo said. “Here short-term, when we move to the new space, we’ll be less dependent on tap-room sales.”

The latest numbers from DSHS show only one region in Texas where COVID-19 hospitalizations are below the governor’s 15-percent threshold. 

The Austin Trauma Service Area has climbed to 19.35%.

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