Bars in Fort Worth and across Tarrant County get the OK to reopen

After a grueling seven-month shutdown, Fort Worth bars are allowed to reopen thanks to a decree from Judge Glen Whitley of Tarrant County.

Bars in Fort Worth and all of Tarrant County are 50 percent reopening. The first day they can open is October 14th.

At a news conference on October 12, the judge said he had consulted with local politicians and business owners and concluded that Tarrant County could handle a reopening.

“I’ve talked to mayors in towns around Tarrant County, I’ve talked to bar owners, townspeople, and other people, and I feel comfortable now that we can do this and still be safe,” said Whitley.

A key factor in his decision was hospital occupancy.

“We have said from the start that the focus is on making sure our hospitals stay open,” said Whitley. “I’ve had conversations with hospital bosses and everyone is comfortable with the decision I’ve made.”

Whitley said if the number of patients positive for COVID-19 exceeds 15 percent of hospital capacity, bars would have to close again.

He stressed that Tarrant County’s residents must remain vigilant, continue to wear masks and social distancing, and that bars must follow state guidelines or they risk being closed again.

“If obvious violations of occupancy requirements are ignored or COVID cases account for more than 15 percent of our hospital capacity in Tarrant County, I will not hesitate to close bars,” Whitley said.

Some bars on the October 10-11 weekend allegedly reopened illegally, and Whitley said those scenarios were being investigated.

“I assure you I am working on it,” he said. “We have questions about some of the videos we saw over the weekend and we have had discussions with TABC. Their license may be suspended today or tomorrow.”

Whitley’s announcement follows an order dated October 7th by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who granted permission to reopen bars across the state, but left the final decision to the individual counties. Collin County decided to reopen bars; Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins ruled against it.

“There’s no obvious right or wrong,” said Whitley. “We need to balance public health and mental health, as well as the financial consequences of such a closure. We wanted to reopen as soon as possible. It was a difficult decision, especially when we saw some bars reopening as restaurants Lots of bars did what we asked them to and stayed closed trying not to fit through a gap, the only ones penalized are the ones that really tried to do what we asked them to to have. “

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