More than 400 Bexar County bars and similar establishments that have not reopened because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions will be able to reopen with 50% capacity and other rules as early as next week, according to County Judge Nelson Wolff.
In the city of San Antonio’s daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, Oct. 14, Wolff said he is filing paperwork with the Texas Alcoholic and Beverage Commission to have the county opt into Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to reopen bars and similar venues.
Abbott last week gave permission to county officials in areas of low hospitalization rates to opt into the bar-reopening program.
San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and its pandemic advisory committee made several recommendations that will be mandated and enforced at about 425 bars that have not yet reopened even with a food service permit.
The recommendations from Metro Health and its advisory committee, Wolff said, do not exceed Gov. Abbott’s public health requirements, and are based upon the state’s overall protocols for bars and similar establishments, including breweries, distilleries and wineries.
More than 3,500 Bexar County establishments have reopened with several level of food service over the last several weeks as the state has relaxed some restrictions prompted by the coronavirus outbreak.
While the San Antonio-area positivity rate is slightly above 5%, local officials said new infection and hospitalization trends look promising.
“We seem to be heading overall in the right direction,” Wolff said.
Wolff said Oct. 14 that he could not say exactly what date the 400-something unopened bars could relaunch operations, but that the state could sign off on his request within a week.
Such recommendations, which will apply only to the 425 currently unopened bars, include masks be are worn by employees and customers, proper ventilation, and prohibition of patrons congregating in large numbers.
“I believe the governor will support this,” Wolff said of Bexar County’s plan. “It’s additional safety measures, none of which are onerous or be unfair to the bar owner.”
Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he backs Judge Wolff’s plan, adding that the idea is to foster within bars an environment where customers and employees can safely occupy such businesses.
He also said the county’s requirements “target behaviors that can be problematic, not necessarily places.”