Mayor Turner says he is considering a ‘Board of Shame’ to identify businesses violating capacity guidelines, mask order

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner speaks during a news conference at Houston City Hall on May 29, 2020.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner speaks during a news conference at Houston City Hall on May 29, 2020. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner said Wednesday that he is considering a “Board of Shame,” to identify local businesses, bars and clubs that are violating coronavirus health guidelines and the Harris County mask order.

Houston police and fire departments will monitor businesses to determine if they are complying with occupancy limits and requiring employees and customers to wear masks, he said.

Some business owners may temporarily lose their TABC license, which has already happened to several businesses in Texas including one in Houston and another in Seabrook. However, the city will not put anyone in jail for failing to comply with the guidelines, Turner said.

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At present, restaurants are allowed to operate at 75% capacity while bars and clubs must operate at 50% capacity, per the Texas executive orders for reopening.

Turner said customers are interested in businesses that are working in their best interests.

“The confidence of the customer will determine the viability of the business,” he said. “We want people to be good partners and good citizens. If you are not, you need to go on the board of shame.”

Houston, and the state in general, is experiencing a sharp rise in new COVID-19 cases. Houston health officials announced 987 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing to the city’s total to 16,253 cases.

Turner said more than 90% of the cases announced Wednesday stemmed back to tests conducted between June 14-22.

The city also announced seven new deaths, bringing the coronavirus death total to 204.

“The numbers are moving in the wrong direction. We are asking people again to do what we did early on take seriously,” Turner said.

Turner said with the city in the middle of a pandemic he cannot standby without action.

“We are going to find a way to get on top of this situation,” Turner said. “Even if that means, depending on what I see, to push the envelope and assume authority that some say I don’t have.”

Turner urged business owners and customers to adhere to the healthcare guidelines, such as social distancing and wearing masks, to suppress the spread of the virus.

“Take the virus seriously,” he said. “We were doing well. But, the goal again is to flatten the curve, slow the progression and to make sure we don’t become the epicenter of the virus for this country.”

Businesses respond

The business community shared mixed feelings regarding the mayor’s plan to shame businesses that are violating COVID-19 health precautions.

“Putting them on blast and stuff like that, I don’t think that’s necessarily good,” said Payton Beck, who had just eaten at a restaurant in Eado.

But others support the idea.

"I think it's ok to make an example out of the bars and establishments that don't want to abide by the rules," said Dynasty McGee, a waitress at The Address.

Two fire investigators from the city stopped by The Address Wednesday, after getting a complaint about overcrowding but found no violations. The business had fewer than a dozen customers inside at the time.

According to one of the investigators, Pete Ng, the goal is “just to make sure people are doing their part in this whole epidemic we’re going through.”

Watch Turner’s full press conference below:

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Posted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Wednesday, June 24, 2020

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