A Travis County district judge sided with Austin officials after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office tried to overturn a ban on late-night dine-in services on New Year's Eve.
Warning of a critical situation of rising COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases, Austin officials moved Wednesday to tamp down social gatherings and parties over New Year's.
Under the order, any venues serving food and drinks will not be closed entirely, but will be limited to drive-thru, curbside, delivery or take-out service from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night from Thursday until Sunday morning.
The order also drew a swift rebuke from the governor and Attorney General Ken Paxton, who sued the city and Travis County to rescind it.
In a letter to city and county officials, Paxton said the order improperly restricts business hours in violation of a previous order by the governor. The Texas Restaurant Association also called it unfair restriction on business.
On Thursday, a Travis County district judge sided with Austin officials.
At a hearing just hours before people would normally head out for a long night of celebrations, Judge Amy Clark Meachum ruled the Austin-area ban can be enforced.
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At the livestreamed court hearing, the state argued that Austin's local orders are not allowed under previous statewide orders issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. However, Texas did not object to similar orders previously put in place by other cities, notably El Paso and San Antonio, over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said health officials want the public to avoid large social gatherings to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, as local and state officials grapple with record numbers of hospitalizations and new cases even as vaccines begin to roll out.
"We are now facing our most dangerous surge prospects," Adler said Wednesday.
Adler said city attorneys were consulted on the Austin order. Travis County Judge Andy Brown called it the "most narrowly tailored thing we could think of."
Texas hit record highs of more than 11,700 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, and more than 26,900 new confirmed cases on Tuesday. The state has reported more than 26,000 deaths.
Abbott and state health officials have urged vaccine providers to move faster in distributing shots. As of Tuesday, state health officials reported that more than 600,000 doses had been received but only about 163,000 had been given out.