Restaurants, bars risk fines and jail time for refusing to uphold social distancing

Violations are up to $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail per day in violation in Harris County

HOUSTON – Restaurants and bars are finding a new normal since Harris County and the City of Houston ordered them to stop on-site dining for 15 days.

Many businesses in Harris County receive a massive disruption Monday when County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner set a ban to comply with requests from the federal government.

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Americans have been asked to avoid groups of more than 10 people to stop the spread of coronavirus. Restaurants and bars can still provide carryout or delivery orders.

Chance Comstock, who co-owns Orleans Seafood Kitchen in Katy, was floored by the decision. However, she said he is doing his best to survive.

On Wednesday, his employees raised a banner outside their establishment announcement of curbside pick-up and delivery options.

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“When I look (at) my busboys, my dishwashers, my cooks, I say we are going to get through this because we’re a family,” said Comstock. “That’s the most important thing. That was the hardest thing for me to tell them is, ‘We are going to have to cut back on hours, don’t worry. You’re going to get paid before we get paid.’”

Orleans Seafood Kitchen is also offering a 10% discount for all orders.

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Texas Borders Bar and Grill, a restaurant next door, was accused of allowing customers to dine-in after Harris County issued the social distancing mandate.

Rachel Moreno, the spokeswoman for the Harris County Fire Marshals Office, said investigators were sent to Texas Borders Bar and Grill after a complaint was filed Tuesday.

“We did get the complaint, but of course, by the time we got across town, they were actually already in compliance,” said Moreno.

Texas Borders wasn’t fined or penalized in any way. Moreno said inspectors must catch them in the act, and if they do, the punishment can be stiff.

“The judge’s order states that there is up to a $1,000 fine for non-compliance or 180 days in jail, and that is per day,” said Moreno.

Harris County has established a hotline to report businesses that not in compliance.

The number is 832-839-6941.