City Announces Limitations to Dine-In and Drink Service for New Year's and Beyond

Gov. Abbott pushes back: “This shutdown order by Austin isn’t allowed”

Sixth Street’s Soho Lounge (pictured here in May) has so far received four citations from the Fire Marshal for breaking COVID-19 restrictions. (photo by David Brendan Hall)

No one will be ringing in the new year at a bar, music venue, or restaurant in Austin. City officials have announced a 10:30pm curfew for dine-in food and beverage establishments that begins Thursday and extends through Sunday morning.

The county wide restrictions, limiting services between the hours of 10:30pm and 6am, were announced Tuesday evening. Restaurants, a classification that’s come to include bars and venues, will still be able to offer curbside, takeout, and deliveries during those hours, but not serve customers inside their place of business.

The new orders come less than a week after Austin moved to Stage 5 – the highest level of local pandemic restrictions.

In Tuesday’s press release, Interim Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott described the region’s COVID-19 infection rate as a “critical” situation and implored the public against gathering with people outside their household for New Year’s Eve.

“We are now experiencing uncontrolled widespread community transmission of COVID-19, particularly in circumstances where masking and distancing are not possible, making bars and similar establishments extremely concerning over this holiday weekend,” he said.

As of Dec. 28, there were only 35 available ICU beds across the 11-county Central Texas region.

New Year’s Eve ranks among the most profitable days of the year for Austin bars, which have been existing under a restaurant designation during the pandemic. Even after the city went into Stage 5 restrictions, many parties and concerts remained on the calendar for Thursday night.

The new orders go into effect Thursday, Dec. 31 at 10:30pm and expire Sunday, Jan. 3 at 6am, per city and county orders issued Tuesday evening.

Governor Greg Abbott, who has frequently butted heads with local elected leaders and public health officials over their COVID-19 response, took to his personal Twitter feed late Tuesday night to dispute their authority to issue said orders.

As of Dec. 29, the Texas Department of State Health Services reports 1,518,4999 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, with 26,990 new confirmed cases. The number of lab confirmed COVID-19 patients currently in Texas hospitals is 11,775, with only 653 available ICU beds still available. As of Dec. 25, more than 26,000 Texans who have tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

This is a developing story.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Kevin Curtin
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

Jan. 22, 2021

New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

Jan. 15, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

COVID-19, Stage 5, restaurants

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle