Angelina County Judge Don Lymbery signed off on reopening bars in Angelina County Monday after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission approved his application.
Gov. Greg Abbott said bars can begin reopening Wednesday.
Last week, Abbott said bars could reopen for in-person services at 50% capacity, but required each county to opt-in through the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Lymbery submitted his application after reviewing the state of the county with other local officials, he said.
If the county begins to see a spike in cases, and especially hospitalizations, this ruling can be rolled back, Lymbery said. If the county sees hospitalizations reaching above 15% for seven consecutive days, they will be forced to shut everything back down.
Lymbery said he is in “high hopes” that the situation with COVID-19 will get better.
“I watch this on an hourly, weekly basis, and I believe things are getting better,” he said. “I have been wrong in the past, but I honestly believe things are getting better.”
“We greatly appreciate the trust Gov. Abbott has placed in the alcoholic beverage industry,” TABC executive director Bentley Nettles said in a press release last week.
“The governor’s plan offers a path for county judges to reopen multiple business types in their counties, including bars, breweries, distilleries and more. We’re grateful to all of the industry members who have put safety first since the pandemic began. I know countless Texans have eagerly awaited this day.”
On giving advice to people going back to bars, Lymbery said to be respectful of your neighbor.
“Honor the request by the bar owners,” he said. “If people get too unruly in a bar, I guarantee you TABC is going to shut that bar down. Wear a mask when you can and use hand sanitizer. Don’t let your friends get sick because of you.”
Bars were closed in March when the pandemic first began spreading through the nation. Abbott’s reopening comes with caveats and conditions:
■ Bars can reopen at 50% capacity — there were no limits placed on outdoor seating.
■ All customers must be seated while eating or drinking.
■ Bars must stop serving at 11 p.m. each day.
■ All customers and employees must wear masks when social distancing is not possible, except when seated at the bar or to eat or drink.
■ All dance floors are closed.
■ Bartenders must stay 6 feet from patrons at the bar.
More restrictions can be found at dshs.state.tx.us/coronavirus/opentexas.aspx.
Additionally, Abbott’s orders allow businesses operating at 50% currently to move up to 75% capacity as long as hospitalization rates remain low, the Texas Tribune reported last Wednesday. They must continue to follow social distancing and sanitization guidelines.
Staff writers Jess Huff and Stacy Faison contributed to this report.