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Bars and clubs to be closed

Man, the effect of the coronavirus pandemic is going to be huge even if everything goes well.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Monday ordered all bars and clubs countywide to close for 15 days, the most drastic step local officials have taken to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The order, which takes effect 8 a.m. Tuesday, also limits restaurants to takeout and delivery orders. The city and county leaders acknowledged the edict could force restaurateurs out of business and cost waitstaff, cooks and bartenders their jobs, but said that dreadful outcome is better than an outbreak in which local hospitals are overrun.

While Turner insisted the closures are not akin to a lockdown, Hidalgo urged residents to avoid any unnecessary contact with other people, effectively signaling a temporary end to public life for the county’s 4.7 million residents. She said the Houston area is at a pivotal moment in determining the path of the virus.

“The decisions we make, and you make, to go out in groups or to stay home will very much determine whether people live or die,” Hidalgo said. “Whether we flatten the curve sufficiently to allow our health care workers to address the influx of cases, or whether our health care system, and community at large, are overwhelmed.”

The Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office will enforce the temporary rules, Hidalgo said. Fire Marshal Laurie Christensen said her inspectors will focus on ensuring bar and restaurants comply, and promised to issue citations for repeat offenders.

[…]

The bar closures and restaurant restrictions are “unquestionably going to cause a financial and health calamity for working people,” said Hany Khalil, executive director of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation.

He said he agrees with the move because it is based on recommendations from health experts, but called on all levels of government to take “swift action” to help affected workers.

“In the bar and restaurant sector, we’re talking about low-wage workers, often uninsured, with little savings to weather the health and economic storm,” Khalil said. “And we need to make sure that they are provided for. They’re not responsible for the situation.”

After Dallas County announced similar restrictions Monday, the Texas Restaurant Association projected that up to 500,000 of the roughly 1.4 million employees in the Texas restaurant industry would lose their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to TRA chief revenue officer and spokeswoman Anna Tauzin.

There are some 300,000 restaurant employees in Harris County, though Tauzin said it was not clear how many could lose their job as a result of the restrictions. The job loss projections do not account for related industries, such as food suppliers and truckers, which Tauzin said also would be hit hard by the loss in restaurant demand.

The city’s press release is here. Bar and club owners are despondent, and I can’t blame them. There’s never a good time for this to happen, but for it to close down their places on Saint Patrick’s Day is an even bigger hit to their finances. I can’t even imagine what the scene is going to look like when this is over. The one thing you can do is still order takeout from your favorite restaurants, and buy gift certificates online from any place that sells them. It’s not going to be much, and everyone from the owners to the staff and the suppliers will need help from the federal government, but it’s something.

UPDATE: Austin has followed suit.

UPDATE: Galveston follows suit.

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6 Comments

  1. SocraticGadfly says:

    Overreaction based on Panicky Don superseding the CDC. https://mauinow.com/2020/03/16/list-cdc-recommendations-on-large-gatherings/

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    I agree. This is more overreaction, Socratic. I’ve read other states have also closed liquor stores. Do you want to cause mass civil disobedience and all out rioting? Close the liquor stores. Maybe Texas should do that, because that’s the fastest way to bring this whole sordid affair to an end.

    People are not going to stand for that.

  3. Brad says:

    Kuff ,

    Is there a way to block the above posts originating from Russia?

    I am pretty sure the First Amendment only applies to Americans.

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    This is not an overreaction. We have the experience of Italy which shows the value of slowing the rate of infection, allowing the most serious cases to get adequate medical treatment meaning more of them will survive. Every day of delay also brings us closer to finding out which treatments work, and closer to the availability of vaccines.

    It is important for us all to work together, to reduce the impact of the pandemic. If it turns out to be an overreaction, the measures can be rolled back early, but, if we have a disaster, there won’t be any remedy.

    I certainly worry for the people who depend on tips and hourly wages to survive, many living pay check to pay check. It is bad, as well, for the small business owners. Maybe the county can waive the drink tax for some of the small neighborhood bars that will be hit hard.

    This shows how vulnerable our economy is. Especially a service economy, which is mostly illusion. Our country has not had much leadership at the top, and much of the resources end up going to help the one percent. Real leadership is empathic, inspirational, and truthful. And the truth is, although uncertainty about the future is now being illustrated to us all; the future was always uncertain.

  5. Wolfgang says:

    NO STATE ACTION (First Amendment does not apply to and is not enforceable against private bloggers)

    Kuff has first amendment right to control his blog and to exercise editorial control (“moderation”) regardless of the nationality of the poster. That’s not censorship in the technical sense because it does NOT involve government agents deciding what shall be allowed and what shall be suppressed.

    Members of the public – with or without US citizenship — don’t have a constitutional right to post on other private individual’s web properties of those of private media establishments for that matter.

    BTW, I don’t have all my (attempted) contributions posted here, and I have to accept that. I can say and do what I want on a blog or website of my own if I so chose.

  6. […] much to add here. Cities and counties have been taking action along these lines, though there have been holdouts. (Harris County is considering further action as […]