FORT WORTH, Texas - Tarrant County announced it will allow bars to reopen at 50 percent capacity.
Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott allowed counties to make that choice.
The Tarrant County judge did have a warning for some bars and stressed that they follow the guidelines set forth to reopen.
Like most areas across the country, the bar scene in Tarrant County isn’t what it once was because of the pandemic. But beginning Wednesday, bars will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity.
Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley made the announcement Monday afternoon.
“We’re opening the bars,” he said.
Last week, Gov. Abbott gave county judges the authority to reopen bars as long as COVID-19 cases continue to make up less than 15% of regional hospital capacity.
In late August, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission changed its rules about how bars and restaurants are licensed because of the pandemic. Since then, state data shows nearly 20% of bars in Texas have been approved or applied for a permit that allows them to operate as a restaurant.
“A lot of the bars have done what we’ve asked them to do. They’ve stayed closed. They’ve not tried to get through loopholes to be able to open back up,” Judge Whitley said. “And so the decision to keep bars closed were really going to penalize those who’ve really tried to do what we asked them to do.”
Some bars across Texas have been investigated and even cited for not following guidelines during the pandemic.
Judge Whitley says he’s seen evidence of that in Tarrant County.
“If I could, I’d pull and suspend the license from a couple of those places today,” he said.
Even though county leaders are the ones deciding whether bars can reopen. In most cases, cities are responsible for enforcement within city limits.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price says city staff has been giving bar owners ample opportunities to follow the rules instead of jumping to hand out citations.
“It will be up to police, code and fire to monitor that both on occupancy level, whether they’re wearing their mask, whether they’re complying with this,” she said.
Fort Worth says it has not cited any bars during the pandemic.
“We have relied heavily on education,” Price said.
Collin County and Denton County are also letting bars partially reopen.
Dallas County is not.