UPDATE 3-19-2020: Fort Worth City Council has extended the emergency declaration provisions until May 15. Also, in accordance with the state of Texas, Fort Worth has updated its policy on crowd sizes and other restrictions.
UPDATE 3-18-2020: Fort Worth has updated its policy by closing all bars, lounges, and taverns; amusement and entertainment venues; theaters; gyms; and private clubs. Gatherings have been limited to 50 people, and previous building capacity limits remain in place. Mayor Betsy Price and Judge Glen Whitley made the announcement in a press conference on March 18.
UPDATE 3-17-2020: The city of Fort Worth has updated its policy on bars and restaurants by restricting them to take-out and delivery only. Mayor Betsy Price made the announcement at a press briefing on March 17.
Fort Worth has joined a host of other cities and states in enacting restrictions to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, including limiting the number of patrons in local businesses.
But unlike some other cities, Fort Worth did not call for outright closures. Instead, local businesses, including bars and restaurants, will only be able to serve half their usual capacity.
According to Mayor Betsy Price, the new restrictions take effect at 12 am on March 17.
"Beginning tonight at midnight, the city of Fort Worth is enacting guidelines relating to the occupancy of local businesses," Price said. "They'll be able to serve 50 percent of their certificate of occupancy, or a maximum of 125 people at a time."
"For example, if a business is allowed via their city code to have 160 people, they now can't have more than 80 people at a time, and that includes employees," she said.
But the maximum number is 125, no matter what capacity a venue holds.
"If a business is allowed to have 600 people, they are maxed at 125 people to comply with this declaration," she said.
Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said that the restrictions apply to a broad swath of businesses that include restaurants, bars, event centers, gyms, hotel restaurants, retail stores, theaters, grocery stores, public buildings, plazas, houses of worship, and malls.
Price later corrected the list, stating that grocery stores were not included.
Businesses that stay open, such as restaurants or bars, can choose from the following strategies:
- encourage takeout/curbside service vs. sit-down
- remove every other chair at bar
- seat customers at every other table in checkerboard fashion
Businesses are also required to have staff keep track of the number of customers inside their establishment. Enforcement will be done by the Fort Worth Fire Department.
Price said the solution was designed to allow small businesses to remain open. "However, if bars and restaurants don't comply, further action may be required," she said.
Fort Worth joins a growing number of cities and states that have shut down or limited operations at bars, restaurants, and other businesses. Illinois and Ohio ordered all bars and restaurants to close, while California shut down bars, pubs, and wineries; restaurants can remain open but are required to reduce their capacities and guarantee social distancing. Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Boston, and New Jersey have also enacted restrictions on bars and restaurants.
Dallas just closed all bars, lounges, taverns, nightclubs, gyms and health clubs, theaters, and entertainment or amusement venues such as arcades and billiard halls for seven days. Houston also just announced a closure similar to Dallas', which will last for 15 days.
Many Fort Worth restaurants had been preparing for tighter restrictions by pivoting to delivery and curbside operations before the city rules were announced.
"The city of Fort Worth stands prepared with our friends at Tarrant County, and recommends you stay home and follow the 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, to play board games with your children, to read, to binge-watch, get to know each other."
"I know it's difficult, but we're here watching after what goes on and trying to keep Fort Worth moving forward for all our residents, to keep us all healthy, and to keep our businesses open whenever we can," she said.