Bars across a large part of North Texas have reopened with the permission of local and state officials.
Bars in Tarrant, Collin and Denton Counties got the green light to serve again, with safety still top of mind.
"When we first opened our doors here it was like will people show up," Twilite Lounge in Fort Worth bar owner Jimmy Morton said.
He opened his bar Wednesday evening for customers for the first time since June. He is glad to have customers and revenue coming in again.
"It's nice to have familiar faces and be able to, not shake hands and hug, but wave at a safe distance," Morton said. "It's a good feeling to get back running again and seeing revenue go up and not down."
Some customers in Fort Worth say for them it's not just about being able to drink. It's about helping out a small business that's finally able to open again.
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"Being able to support their families," customer Zachary Campbell said. "You know there's parts to this that are a little bit frustrating because I've watched these people suffer over the last seven months if you will."
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins refused to allow bars to reopen citing recommendations from local and federal health officials as well as rising COVID-19 cases in the county.
“It is nice to be able to come back in here, see old friends and wave from a distance,” said bar patron David Burdan at Tommy’s Oasis in Arlington.
Several counties have given the go-ahead for 51%-alcohol selling establishments to reopen at 50% capacity, in accordance with Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order issued last week.
“Fantastic,” said Tommy’s Oasis general manager Aimee Buchanan. “We’ve got regulars, they’ve been coming in since 10 o’clock this morning.”
Bar patrons must also stay seated if they’re inside, wear face coverings unless eating or drinking.
There are no capacity-limitations for outdoor patios.
Bars must also stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m., according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
“We’re just ready to get people in here and drinking some good beer,” said Ryan McWhorter, owner of Panther Island.
McWhorter said his taproom closed for the second time in July, sales have fallen about 80%.
A “silver lining” of the shutdown is that the brewery was able to increase production and begin beer-to-go sales.
McWhorter said it is possible for bars to safely reopen.
“If everyone can just follow the guidelines and just put aside your difference for a second, it can be safe,” he said. “They just need to adhere by the rules, and everyone wear a mask, keep your distance and be nice.”
Buchanan said their employees want to remain open and are following all the safety guidelines.
“There’s a lot more babysitting. ‘Don’t sit over there. Don’t sit too close. Keep your mask on,’” she said.
Burdan said COVID-19 is top of mind when returning to bars.
“You have to take it seriously,” he said. “But I think these smaller businesses have shown they want to open their doors and they do want to take it seriously.”
As part of the governor’s order, bars can remain open as long as COVID-patients do not exceed 15% of the total number of people hospitalized in each county.
Tarrant County’s COVID-19 hospitalized patients currently amount to 9%, according to online records.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.