The dust gathered on Collin County’s bar stools will soon be brushed off after Judge Chris Hill’s announcement that bars therein can reopen starting October 14.
Hill told The Texan, “Every Collin County business is essential, and even those who don’t imbibe can raise a glass in support of our local businesses and a strong economy. We’re committed to balancing public health, economic health, and Constitutional liberties; and all three suggest that Collin County should be completely open.”
This week, Governor Greg Abbott issued a new order allowing bars to reopen for business at 50 percent capacity, provided that the given county judge approves and the county meets certain coronavirus metrics.
Hill stated on Thursday, “With the encouragement and recommendation of the doctors and scientists from Collin County Health Care Services, I will be filing the necessary paperwork with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) to allow Collin County bars to reopen next week.”
The metric Abbott and the state now operate from is a 15 percent COVID-19 hospitalization rate — of which Collin County has remained below at 3.05 percent, according to Hill.
“At no time this year has our hospital capacity been overwhelmed or threatened by COVID-19. Quite simply, Collin County should be completely open. I will listen to everyone, but will follow the science,” Hill added.
Collin County’s neighbor, Dallas County, will not allow bars to reopen after Judge Clay Jenkins indicated his opposition to the proposition.
On that, Hill told The Texan, “From the very beginning, our public policy priority has been to prevent our hospitals and health care system from becoming overburdened. Across North Texas, COVID-19 patients are currently utilizing only 7.8 percent of our hospital beds.”
“Even in Dallas County, that figure is only 6.33 percent. When every metric suggests that North Texas businesses should be open, it makes people wonder why they aren’t,” he concluded.
The Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance, who unsuccessfully sued Abbott over his closure orders earlier this year, called the new order a “death sentence for so many of our members under the jurisdiction of county judges who still believe that we should be locked down like we were in March and April, despite all the progress we’ve made coexisting with this virus.”
Another group of bars filed a lawsuit against Abbott in late-August in a Travis County district court, but it is still pending in the court’s docket.
“51 percenters,” as they’re referred to due to the 51-percent classification that separates restaurants from bars based on alcohol profit proportions, have struggled mightily during the pandemic. Back in April, an analysis found that the initial lockdowns caused 20 percent of Texas’ food and drink service establishments, including bars and restaurants, to close permanently.
As the lockdowns progressed, evaporated, and then were reinstituted, the volatility particularly experienced by bars has compounded already difficult financial times.
Bar owners everywhere hope their county judges follow Hill’s lead, lest the dust gathered makes permanent its perch.
The North Texas COVID-19 county 30-day inpatient trend can be seen on page eight in the below document.
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Brad Johnson is 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 watching and quoting Monty Python productions.