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Jefferson County announces opt-in to allow bars to reopen with social distancing guidelines

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick announced he is planning to opt-in and allowing bars to reopen at 50 percent capacity starting Oct. 14.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Texas — Some bars in Southeast Texas may be reopening after being closed for most of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick announced he is planning to opt-in and allowing bars to reopen at 50 percent capacity starting Oct. 14. Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order issued Oct. 7 allows bars to reopen at 50 percent capacity in counties where COVID-19 hospitalizations are below 15 percent of the region's hospital capacity. 

Bars in Texas originally closed in March at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, reopened late spring and closed again June 26 while the seven-day statewide average positivity rate was more than 18 percent and 5,102 people were hospitalized the virus, according to the Texas Tribune

Abbott's order requires the county judge to approve bars reopening and enforce health protocols. The executive order also increased occupancy levels for all other businesses besides bars to 75 percent. 

Other counties across Texas are also deciding what direction to take in reopening bars. 

"Maskless gatherings should not be taking place right now, and this applies to bars as well," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said, KHOU reported Oct. 7.

The Texas Tribune reported Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins also decided not to allow bars to reopen due to the county's current risk level.  

“We are currently in orange and our numbers are climbing, so, if that doesn't reverse, sooner or later we'll be back in red,” Jenkins said. “Therefore, following the doctors’ advice, I won't be opening bars at this time.”

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough said TABC licensed businesses could resume operations, according to the governor's order.

RELATED: 'Cheers!' | Gov. Abbott tweets more openings on the way. Could bars be next? 

RELATED: Texas bars must remain closed as most restaurants reopen to 75%, Gov. Abbott says

Bars across Southeast Texas have reopened under restaurant licenses to prevent closing down permanently. 

Mackenzie's Pub on Dowlen Road reopened Sept. 17 as a restaurant under a different license from the state. Little Woodrow's reopened its doors under the same alternate license Aug. 17 , according to a Facebook post.

Soggy Bottom Saloon in Beaumont reopened July 27 in defiance of the governor's order for bars to shut down indefinitely with other bar owners protesting across Texas 

RELATED: 'Livelihoods destroyed': Bars in Texas to remain closed amid COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants can expand capacity

RELATED: Little Woodrow's reopens its doors Monday thanks to new food, beverage certificate from the state

RELATED: Soggy Bottom Saloon has license suspended for 30 days after Saturday night protest

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