EL PASO, Texas – The Texas Supreme Court has struck down rules banning Austin-area restaurants from offering late-night dine-in service, siding with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton over local officials who said the measure was needed to slow the coronavirus' spread.
In addition, Paxton has now made good on a New Year's Eve threat and filed a similar suit against El Paso County, which has also had local restrictions in place requiring a 10 p.m. closing time.
As a result, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo on Saturday said officials were dropping El Paso's local order and allowing restaurants to stay open in accordance with the conditions on their state liquor licenses, which typically means establishments could operate nightly until 2 a.m.
“In light of the Texas Supreme Court’s Order against the City of Austin and Travis County, and the amended pleadings filed against the County of El Paso by the Texas Attorney General, I have rescinded the order closing restaurants at 10 p.m. for dine-in service,” said Margo.
Margo urged El Pasoans, however, not to let their guard down even though restrictions were being lifted.
“Our active cases, hospitalizations and TSA (Trauma Service Area) rate have continued to decline but, we must all continue to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing to avoid a surge in cases, especially while we are in the process of distributing the vaccine,” he said.
Restaurants are currently allowed to operate at 50 percent occupancy as the TSA rate mentioned by the mayor, which is the level of hospitalizations due to Covid, is not below 15 percent, as established by an order of the governor. The TSA rate for the El Paso area is currently at 18.45 percent.
Additionally, local officials warned that bars that don't hold a restaurant permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) are still not allowed to reopen under state law.
Below is the official document outlining the lifting of the El Paso order.