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Texas Restaurant Association creates guidelines, pleads with governor to reopen bars

While restaurants have been allowed to reopen dining rooms under certain restrictions, bars are still closed.

AUSTIN, Texas — In an effort to get bars reopened across Texas, the Texas Restaurant Association has created "The Texas Bar Promise," a draft of safety precautions the association plans to present to Gov. Greg Abbott for consideration.

In late March, Gov. Abbott ordered that schools, bars and restaurant dining rooms close due to the coronavirus pandemic. On May 1, as part of Abbott's phased economic plan, Texas restaurants, retail stores, malls, movie theaters and museums were allowed to reopen at 25% capacity. Bars have not reopened.

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At a press briefing May 12, the president of popular Austin restaurant El Arroyo joined two top-ranking members of the Texas Restaurant Association to present the draft.

The document that has been drafted is an "agreement between bar owners, employees, and guests on expected safety precautions and behaviors in order to reopen bars in Texas," the association said.

The document outlines the following safety guidelines the association recommends bar employees follow when they are allowed to reopen:

  • Parties will maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other parties at all times, including while waiting for a space or to order. We will facilitate this with marked, physically designated individual party areas within the bar and other signage. No parties will have more than 6 people
  • A designated health and safety manager will enforce social distancing requirements during every shift
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be available to all customers and employees, including upon entry
  • We will ensure garnishes, glassware and other traditional bar-top items are protected and not accessible to customers
  • We will provide condiments only upon request, and in single-use portions
  • We will use disposable menus or digital menu solutions
  • All employees will pass a health screening before beginning their shift
  • Employees will wash or sanitize their hands upon entering the establishment, and between interactions with customers
  • We will clean and disinfect common areas and surfaces regularly. We will also clean and disinfect each party's area after every use
  • We will place readily visible signage at the establishment to remind everyone of best hygiene and required social distancing practices

The document also outlines the association's proposed expectations of bar patrons when the governor allows bars to reopen:

  • Following the social distancing and sanitary guidelines that have been put in place to protect you and other customers and employees
  • Following the direction of all employees who are monitoring social distancing and sanitation guidelines
  • Self-screening and not entering the bar if you have any signs of COVID-19 including but not limited to fever, cough, shortness of breath or known close contact with someone who has COVID-19

Since the closure of schools, bars and restaurant dining rooms on March 20, the restaurant association said, "75,000 jobs were lost across the state with more than 600 and million in gross revenue lost in just the last two months. This also equates to more than 42,000,000 in liquor tax revenue lost to the state of Texas." 

When asked if they've seen have the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance's guidelines to re-opening, Kelsey Erickson Streufert, the Texas Restaurant Association's vice president of government affairs and advocacy, said they have seen it.

TBNA member Bob Woody told KVUE that the group sent its letter to the governor's task force on May 6, two days before the May 8 press conference where the governor did not mention a specific date for bars to re-open.

"I think the fact that the governor hasn't reopened bars as yet, despite that and the proposal being submitted, kind of told us that they didn't quite match what the governor was after, that he wasn't comfortable that those were the right steps," Erickson told KVUE's Jenni Lee. "And so that's again where we stepped up and said we've got experience and this reopened COVID world. Bars and restaurants are similar. So can we look at what the Bar Nightclub Alliance submitted and what we've come up with and see where there's common ground and see if we can get a proposal to the governor that he'll endorse or run with."

KVUE INTERVIEW: Gov. Abbott discusses his plan for reopening Texas

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