County Judge Chris Hill says he will reopen bars in Collin County, following an executive order issued Wednesday by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that gave county judges the decision-making authority.
“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 to allow Collin County bars to reopen next week,” Hill announced Thursday:
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, a Republican, has consistently called for minimal government mandates on citizens in response to the Chinese coronavirus, instead encouraging personal responsibility and equal treatment for all business owners/employers.
“All businesses, jobs, and workers are essential to the financial health and well-being of our local economy and therefore are essential to the financial health and well-being of Collin County citizens,” Hill said on March 24.
In neighboring Dallas County, Judge Clay Jenkins—a Democrat who has consistently issued some of the most draconian local lockdown orders in the state—was the first to declare on Wednesday he would not allow bars in his county to open at this time.
Regarding opening bars in Dallas County: I will not file to open them at this time. Below is the current guidance from the Public Health Committee and @DCHHS. We are in orange but our numbers are increasing (BadI) I will listen to everyone but will follow the science. pic.twitter.com/wvak33TnZw
— Clay Jenkins (@JudgeClayJ) October 7, 2020
“I support the Governor’s effort to push forward with openings,” Republican Dallas County Commissioner J.J. Koch told Texas Scorecard. “We will find a way to get businesses in Dallas County back open. We cannot keep destroying small businesses. I hope Judge Jenkins can work with us to that end.”
Abbott’s latest executive order GA-32, which takes effect October 14, failed to reopen bars or similar businesses that hold TABC permits and make more than 51 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales.
Instead, Abbott passed the buck to county judges, allowing local officials like Jenkins to keep those small businesses closed while others are allowed to be partially open.
Under the new order, county judges must first certify to TABC that their local coronavirus hospitalization rate is under 15 percent. Then they may allow bars to reopen, subject to a 50-percent capacity limit and other restrictions.
Hill said daily hospitalization figures since March 21 show COVID-19 patients in Collin County have occupied on average 3.05 percent of the county’s 2,702 available beds, with 103 patients reported hospitalized as of Wednesday.
TABC will continue to enforce the governor’s restrictions on 51-percent businesses. The new health protocols were updated Wednesday evening to add that bars must stop serving alcohol at 11:00 p.m.
Bars and other 51-percenters have been completely shut down since late June. Owners say Abbott is unfairly picking winners and losers, and his unilateral shutdown orders are a “death sentence” for their small businesses.
GA-32 is the 25th “emergency” executive order issued by Abbott since he first declared a public health disaster on March 13.
Texans frustrated with Abbott’s ongoing unilateral mandates and business-killing decrees are rallying outside the Governor’s Mansion in Austin for a “Free Texas” protest on Saturday, October 10, at 11:00 a.m.