Why are bars not reopening in Texas yet?

Delicious tequila and lime margaritas on a bar top with tortilla chips and pico de gallo. (Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – Gov. Greg Abbott announced Tuesday that more businesses will be allowed to reopen, some as soon as Friday, May 8.

While Abbott said hair salons, barbershops and even tanning salons will be allowed to reopen Friday and gyms will be able to reopen on May 18, he provided no timeline for when bars will be allowed to reopen.

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“Bars are another area that we want to open because we know the customers like it, but we also want to open up because the bar owners desperately need it to provide some level of income, for them to pay their bills,” Abbott said in a press conference Tuesday. “But the fact is we are still working on safe ways to establish safe distancing at bars.”

Abbott acknowledged a common critique of the reopening order, saying some could argue that “a bar could be set up the same way that a restaurant is set up,” while maintaining limited occupancy and social distancing strategies.

He said the “very nature of a bar” is to bring people closer together in an enclosed space in a setting that he said would promote the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus.

Abbott encouraged business owners to reach out to his office to provide feedback about how they may be able to safely reopen.

“We want to hear from bars about the types of strategies you could use (to reopen) — understanding this key point: not all bars are the same,” Abbott said in the press conference. “Some bars may be massively large and could easily set up operations that would be able to effectively employ distancing strategies. What about small bars?”

Unlike gyms, non-essential manufacturers, pools, weddings, and funerals, Abbott did not provide a timeline for when bars may be able to reopen.

Meanwhile, last week, Abbott said alcohol-to-go orders may continue through the reopening and teased the possibility of keeping it permanently.