June 3, the state released phase three of its comprehensive plan to jumpstart the economy since the COVID-19 pandemic slammed the brakes on it earlier this year. Texas bars and restaurants were granted higher occupancy rates, but they come with some rather cumbersome safety measures.
Bars and Breweries
As soon as the protocols were released Wednesday evening, bars and breweries were granted 50% occupancy for all indoor spaces. There are still no limits for patios and outdoor areas. The physical bartop at a bar continues to be off limits, and customers should remain seated in order to be served.
Groups need to stay 6 feet apart, and pathways for "patrons’ ingress and egress should be clear and unobstructed."
One of the many challenging parts of this is allowing 50% indoor capacity while also maintaining 6 feet of separation. Many spaces can’t adhere to both of those policies in tandem with much success.
Face masks are still only a suggestion (except for valets), but there should to be ample hand sanitizer available.
Beginning June 12, restaurants are allowed to fill their restaurants up to 75% capacity. Groups must maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other groups at all times, including while waiting to be seated in the restaurant.
The 6-foot distance between groups seated at different tables is not required if the restaurant provides engineering controls, such as a partition, between the tables. These partitions have to be 6 feet above ground level. The definition or style of partition is left to the imagination and resources of restaurants.
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Also, patrons need to be 6 feet from bar items such as clean glasses and ice.
And (and!), to ensure the bartenders are maintaining distance, it’s suggested that bars tape off or otherwise block “bartenders from being within 6 feet of seated customers, or the use of engineering controls, such as dividers, to keep” … oh good lord. You get it, right? The bartenders can't be with 6 feet of anyone ever. Unless there's a partition.
Valets are welcomed back to their hustle, but they have to wipe door handles, ignition switches, steering wheels and shift knobs with a disinfectant as the valet enters and exits the vehicles. There are a total of 12 points for valets to adhere to, including face coverings (the only group for whom they are required), and they must change gloves between every interaction with customers and/or vehicles. And cash transactions are frowned upon.
On the same day these measures were released, June 3, the state reported 1,703 new coronavirus cases. And the positivity rate for the state jumped to 6.6%, a spike from 4.27% one week prior.