Fire marshals visit local businesses enforcing occupancy capacity, health guidelines amid uptick in violations

Inspectors are authorized to stop events exceeding capacity until the occupancy is corrected

Fire marshal enforcing capacity restrictions
Fire marshal enforcing capacity restrictions

HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner said some clubs and bars are ignoring the 25% occupancy requirement established by the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He said starting Sunday night the fire marshal will begin to enforce the regulation.

This is a reversal of the city’s protocol of handling violations. While Turner initially said the city would not be enforcing the rules, citing resources and a lack of support, he said the overcrowded establishments during Memorial Day weekend has forced him to change his stance.

“The two times we tried to enforce the governor’s order, we didn’t get support from the state and that’s why we decided to stand down,” Turner said. “But as the mayor of the city of Houston, I can’t ignore that there is a healthcare crisis.”

Turner said he has received photos and there are others on social media of clubs and bars violating the health standards. He said people are not social distancing or wearing masks.

“There are too many people that are coming together to some of our clubs, our bars, swimming pool parties, no social distancing, no masks,” Turner said at a press conference Sunday. “You are forcing us to step in for public health reasons to say: ‘No, we’re not going to allow that.’”

Houston-area clubs and bars are reopening for the first time since mid-March. Gov. Greg Abbott’s reopening Texas plan allows restaurants to operate at 50% capacity while bars and clubs must operate at 25%.

Throughout the reopening process, the bar industry has demand lawmakers to prioritize the reopening of their establishments. Earlier this week, owners received the official green light from Abbott to reopen starting Friday.

“I want us to move forward but this will set us back,” Turner wrote on Twitter.

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