Group of Texas bar owners sue to reopen amid pandemic

Barstools are stacked at South Tyler Speakeasy in Tyler, Texas as word reached the bar of Gov. Greg Abbott's morning announcement that bars must close at noon on Friday, June 26, 2020, due to the uptick in the spread of the coronavirus. (Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph via AP)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A group of Texas bar owners filed lawsuits Monday seeking to overturn Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that closed their businesses to help contain the spread of the coronavirus in Texas.

Abbott has pinpointed the re-opening of bars last month as one of the sources behind a dramatic spike in new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations that has made Texas a national hotspot in a virus resurgence.

The lawsuits filed in Austin, Houston and Galveston allege Abbott doesn’t have the authority under the state constitution to make such an order, and that it targets bars while allowing other establishments, such as hair and nail salons and tattoo studios to remain open.

Abbott’s order shuttered establishments that make at least 51 percent of their revenue from alcohol sales. It also trimmed restaurant dining capacity from 75 percent to 50 percent.”

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The bar owners say Abbott should bring the Legislature into a special session to address the issue.

“Gov. Abbott continues to act like a king,” said Jared Woodfill, attorney for the bar owners. “Abbott is unilaterally destroying our economy and trampling on our constitutional rights.”

A spokesman for Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Also Monday, the University of Texas released new plans for its fall semester return-to-school for the 50,000-student campus. They include a mandatory mask policy inside campus buildings, the same tuition rate for online or in-person classes, and plans for double-occupancy in most dorm rooms.