HOUSTON – Bars in Fort Bend County and Chambers County are being allowed to reopen Wednesday. The decision follows the major announcement from Gov. Greg Abbott, allowing county judges to make their own decision on bars.
Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George said he will be submitting paperwork to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to allow bars in the county to reopen at 50% capacity.
George said recent data shows that hospitalization rates and infection rates have been kept in check, but he cautioned residents to not let down their guard.
“Bar owners and managers showed an overwhelming interest," George said. “Be safe. Be smart and please don’t mess it up."
Just a walk away from the courthouse in Richmond, Unwine’D, a wine and cheese lounge, sits in a small alleyway. They have been waiting for this day to come. This is the owners, Rosanne Wechter and her husband, Kevin Lawton, dream.
“We decided this was what was lacking in Richmond, so three years ago we opened up,” Wechter said.
Starting their business weeks before Hurricane Harvey, they say recovering from the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has been much harder to overcome.
“We had to get creative. We were just trying to get by enough just to pay the rent and to keep ourselves stocked so we were doing deliveries," Wechter said.
With guidance from the governor’s executive order, bars will have to make sure the parties are socially distanced by six feet or through engineering techniques like partitions.
“Patrons at bars or similar establishments operating under this paragraph may eat or drink only while seated, except that in an establishment that holds a permit from TABC as a brewer, distiller/rectifier, or winery, customers may sample beverages while standing so long as they are in a group of six people or fewer and there is at least six feet of social distancing or engineering controls, such as partitions, between groups,” the Governor’s order reads.
Chambers County Judge Jimmy Sylvia has also decided to allow bars to reopen Wednesday.
“He has been sensitive to the fact that there’s been a huge economic impact," Samantha Humphrey, Chambers County Spokesperson, said.
While Wechter said bars have unfairly taken the brunt of the blame, they are thankful to be reopening.
“It’s very easy to blame the bars (but) it’s not the bars, it’s not the customers -- it’s the bar owners," Wechter said.
Judge KP George warned if the COVID-19 numbers increase, he will have to re-look at closing bars again. Wechter said she will be responsible and hopes that bar owners who do not follow the appropriate guidelines will be held accountable individually.
While neighboring counties are deciding to reopen its bars at 50% capacity, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said its county bars will remain closed until the virus is under control.