Fort Worth closes bars, gyms, and theaters to curb coronavirus

UPDATE 3-19-2020: Fort Worth City Council has extended the Emergency Declaration Policy to May 15. In accordance with the state of Texas, Fort Worth has updated its crowd and other restrictions policy.

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UPDATE 3-18-2020: Fort Worth updated its policy by closing all bars, lounges, and tavernas. Amusement and entertainment venues; Theatre; Gym; and private clubs. The meetings were limited to 50 people and the previous capacity limits for buildings remain. Mayor Betsy Price and Judge Glen Whitley made the announcement in a press conference on March 18.

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UPDATE 3-17-2020: The city of Fort Worth has updated its bars and restaurants guidelines to include takeaway and delivery only. Mayor Betsy Price announced this at a press conference on March 17th.

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Fort Worth along with a host of other cities and states has put restrictions in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus, including limiting the number of customers in local businesses.

But unlike some other cities, Fort Worth did not call for permanent closings. Instead, local businesses, including bars and restaurants, can only serve half of their usual capacity.

According to Mayor Betsy Price, the new restrictions will come into effect on March 17th at 12 noon.

“Starting at midnight tonight, the city of Fort Worth will issue guidelines for local business occupancy,” Price said. “You can serve 50 percent of your occupancy certificate or a maximum of 125 people at the same time.”

“For example, if a company is allowed to have 160 employees through its city code, it can’t have more than 80 people at a time, and that includes employees,” she said.

However, the maximum number is 125, regardless of the capacity of a venue.

“If a company is allowed to have 600 employees, there is a maximum of 125 people to comply with this statement,” she said.

Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said the restrictions apply to a wide range of businesses, which include restaurants, bars, event centers, gyms, hotel restaurants, retail stores, theaters, grocery stores, public buildings, plazas, places of worship and shopping malls.

Price later corrected the list, noting that grocery stores were not included.

Companies that stay open, such as restaurants or bars, can choose from the following strategies:

  • Encourage takeaway / roadside service versus sitting

  • Remove every other chair at the bar

  • Put customers at every other table like a chessboard

Companies also need employees to keep track of the number of customers in their operations. Enforcement is carried out by the Fort Worth Fire Department.

Price said the solution was designed to allow small businesses to stay open. “However, if bars and restaurants fail to comply, further action may be needed,” she said.

Fort Worth is joining a growing number of cities and states that have shut down or restricted the operation of bars, restaurants, and other businesses. Illinois and Ohio ordered all bars and restaurants to close, while California closed bars, pubs and wineries. Restaurants can stay open, but must reduce capacity and ensure social distancing. Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Boston, and New Jersey have also put restrictions on bars and restaurants.

Dallas has just closed all bars, lounges, taverns, nightclubs, gyms and fitness clubs, theaters, and entertainment or entertainment venues such as arcades and pool halls for seven days. Houston has just announced a closure similar to that of Dallas, which will last 15 days.

Many Fort Worth restaurants had prepared for tougher restrictions by focusing on delivery and roadside operations before the city rules were announced.

“The city of Fort Worth stands prepared with our friends in Tarrant County, recommending that you stay home and follow CDC guidelines, including practicing social distancing,” she said.

She called it a “very fluid situation” but said it was “a great opportunity for you to stay home, play board games with your children, read, watch, get to know each other”.

“I know it’s difficult, but we’re watching what’s going on here and we’re trying to move Fort Worth forward for all of our residents, keeping us all healthy, and keeping our businesses open whenever we can,” she said.

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