IssuesCity of Abilene Will Not Enforce Governor Abbott’s Bar Closure Order

The state-versus-local saga continues as Abilene officials draw a hard line against enforcing the governor's latest closure order.
June 26, 2020
Hours after Governor Abbott announced the re-closing of Texas’ bars and the reduction of restaurant capacity to 50 percent, the City of Abilene expressed its intention to ignore the new order.

Governor Abbott’s new order requires any business which makes 51 percent or more of its profits from alcohol to close to the public, with the ability to offer to-go or delivery services.

Restaurants, meanwhile, must reduce operating capacity to 50 percent of their normal volume, dropping for many from the allowed 75 percent by Monday, June 29.

Furthermore, all outdoor gatherings of over 100 people must be approved by the proper local government and all rafting and tubing businesses are required to cease operations.

City Manager Robert Hanna issued the following statement about the decision:

The Texan Tumbler

The City of Abilene under the advice of the City Attorney, will not enforce the Governor’s Executive Order, BUT we encourage all business owners and citizens to use common sense, and to follow the Governor’s Executive Orders to the extent they can. In regards to bars and restaurants, TABC will likely work to enforce the Governor’s Executive Order.

Any immediate events scheduled in June and July will likely proceed, but events further out I cannot speak to at this time. All that being said, the City reserves the right to cancel outdoor gatherings over 100 attendees if the public’s health is endangered. We will rely on hospitalizations and infection rates to make these determinations. The message folks need to hear is that they need to use common sense, and be responsible. Avoid large crowds, social distance, if you choose to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you don’t want to wear a mask respect those that do and avoid antagonizing folks or standing or walking within six feet of them. Basically be kind to one another and look out for each other. Pretty simple rules to live by.

Abilene officials have decided to trust its citizens to follow social distancing guidelines rather than enforce the statewide order.

Governor Abbott, at the outset of his pandemic-state orders, allowed localities flexibility to implement stricter measures. However, after beginning to reopen, he stated that his order superseded all local ones. That posture has not changed since and this is the latest instance of state-versus-local struggle that permeates Texas politics.

That struggle also exists between cities and counties, such as Colleyville’s announcement it will not enforce Tarrant County’s mask order.

Nearly 20 bars had their alcohol permits revoked by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission this week. Some are appealing the citations, but now they’ll be required to close anyway.

The last few weeks have seen an increase in raw numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations but the positive rate still remains below 10 percent.

Texas’ COVID-19 death rate is declining, but death numbers should be taken with a grain of salt due to delays in reporting.

Governor Abbott said in a press conference this week that Texas will “maintain flexibility” after cases have increased.

Update: The City of Abilene re-postured its position in a tweet, stating, “The City of Abilene encourages everyone to follow Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order issued earlier today, and never intended to imply an intention to disregard the Order. We apologize for any lack of clarity in earlier messaging.”


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.