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Code Compliance Officers Give Tickets, Prepare Legal Action for Businesses Refusing to Stay Closed

Fort Worth Code Compliance Department is “ready, willing and able” to enforce the closure order

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After more than a month of closure, business owners across North Texas are waiting for rules to relax.

Now, some are looking to reopen on May 1 despite the current order to remain closed.

“We’ve enjoyed a lot of cooperation on the part of the businesses for the most part. Businesses have voluntarily closed before we ever had to knock on the door,” Fort Worth Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett said. “Some a very reasonable challenge that they wanted a determination of if they were essential or non-essential. Most of those, when they were determined non-essential moved to curbside or some other method of doing business.”

Still, some businesses have said they plan to open on May 1 and Bennett said the code compliance department is “ready, willing and able” to enforce the closure order.

“We’ve had a few bars and a few other businesses that have been less-than-cooperative,” Bennett said. “We’ve issued around 6 citations at this point and then there are others that we are preparing cases for to take to TABC on their liquor license and potentially additional court action should they open up prior to being given permission by either the governor or the mayor.”

Last week, Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton amended part of the city’s disaster declaration to allow restaurants to serve customers in person, but only if they have an outdoor patio.

 Bennett explained opening before the order has lifted could lead to arrest.

“Issue criminal citations to the person in charge of the establishment. That could be the arrest and removal of that person. And we could actually cause the place to be closed down at that every moment,” Bennett said. “More likely than not, if we got to that point, we would also seek some injunctive relief from the court. We would file for a restraining order and in doing so, we would also seek all reimbursement for the city’s fees for filing the lawsuit for all the staff time involved in closing the business down.”

“Because of the nature of the situation we are in right now, we would also petition the state to either suspend or revoke their liquor license,” Bennett added. “That would be a process that I’m not sure has been tested anywhere in the state, but we are prepared to go down that road if necessary.”

Bennett said 99% of the businesses have complied with the order to close.

“We understand that there is a economic hardship at play here, that businesses are very eager to open up and we’re trying to mitigate those concerns along with mitigating the public health emergency,” Bennett said.

"The governor is going to making some announcements this next week and I think the governor’s office is eager to get the economy back in full swing, but also to do it in a very responsible fashion," Bennett added. "I think that is going to be key in how we address opening up businesses locally and how we do enforcement."

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