After four long months, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Oct. 7 his plans to allow bars to reopen across certain Texas counties effective Oct. 14. Walker County Judge Danny Pierce opted in Walker County to resume the in-person service with new regulations for bars.
“Most of our restaurants here in town, we sell alcohol with the meal, of course they are exempt from these rules,” Pierce said. “This will help the others come alive and have the same opportunity to recover the losses they have endured over this past several months since the bars had closed.”
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission oversees the reopening and the new rules that establishments must follow. The rules include 50% capacity for inside services, liquor sales stop at 11 p.m. and the use of masks.
Patrons are recommended to social distance as much as possible while in the bar. TABC will be doing undercover checks to make sure rules are being enforced and followed by patrons and staff.
“[TABC] will be wearing plain clothes,” Pierce said. “You would not recognize them unless you know them.”
Walker County, since Oct. 16, documented a total of 2465 COVID-19 cases. The City of Huntsville is counting for 60.71% of the cases, according to Walker County Office of Emergency Management. In comparison, Brazos County, home to Texas A&M, documented a total of 7,291 coronavirus cases, according to City of Bryan Geographic Information Services.
“Our numbers are down in such a way at the hospital,” Pierce said. “We are one of those counties that we could activate the governor’s orders and open the bars in our county.”
With bars reopened, bartenders gained the title of essential worker and rejoined the service industry. Clea Garza has worked as a bartender at Shenanigans and Confetti’s Beach Club since May 2019 and she shared her experience going back to the bar.
“Since we had been shut down for so long, it took everyone a little while to get back into the swing of things, but in the end, everything went smoothly,” Garza said.
Even with the rules on social distancing and masks, she worries about the patrons not taking COVID-19 seriously and reminds everyone to stay home if they feel sick.
“COVID-19 is a serious illness that can have lifetime effects on a person and even though we are all excited for the bars to open and have those ‘late nights’ again, it’s still pertinent to stay safe,” Garza said. “I know that every staff member at Shenanigans wants every customer to stay safe and healthy and to take the proper precautions when going to the bar.”