AUSTIN, Texas - A district judge has ruled in favor of the city of Austin and Travis County in a lawsuit filed by the Texas Attorney General against a recent dine-in curfew to curb the spread of COVID-19.
After hearing from both representatives of Austin-Travis County and the office of Attorney General Ken Paxton, District Judge Amy Clark Meachum ruled to allow the city and county's new dine-in restrictions.
"I believe that cities have the authority to be able to try to protect their community in situations where the state won't. I don't know how long or whether this district court ruling will stand," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
After pushback from the state, Austin-Travis County will be allowed to enforce food and beverage establishments to close for dine-in between the hours of 10:30 pm and 6:00 am through the holiday weekend.
"The choices that we make are not about the risks for ourselves. The choices that we're making right now in our community is about how many ICU beds our community has. And for that reason, I believe that people that are putting themselves in positions tonight, where they're out with people they don't live with and not wearing a mask or acting in a way that is selfish, and puts the entire community at risk," said Mayor Adler.
Hours after the decision was released, Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office released this statement:
"Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that he filed an appeal in the Austin-based Third Court of Appeals, urging the court to halt enforcement of Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s and Travis County Judge Andy Brown’s orders, which illegally impose a four-day shutdown of dine-in food and beverage services from 10:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., December 31 through January 3. The city and county orders are brazen violations of state law."
Several bars and restaurants tell FOX 7 Austin they plan to be open, including Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Icehouse on West 6th Street.
"We're gonna weigh our risks and consequences for being business owners living in a free nation and free state, and we're going to continue celebrating New Year's and closeout 2020," said Austin Talley, Director of Operations for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Icehouse.
Talley says no one will be allowed in unless they booked a table in advance. The establishment will be running at a 40% capacity until 2 a.m. with several social distancing protocols in place. Talley says they will also be enforcing that everyone wears a mask.
"We wanted to be good stewards. We participated, sometimes even at our own detriment, and we were closed for months. That's not just a few $1,000 worth of revenue loss. It's millions of dollars' worth of revenue," said Talley.
Gov. Greg Abbott released this statement on Twitter:
"The Governor's statewide executive order allows food establishments to be open for in-person dining on New Year's Eve as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. They should remain open. Happy New Year!"