Bars slow to reopen in Harrison Co. under new coronavirus order


MARSHALL, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – Harrison was one of dozens of counties in Texas that opted in to allowing bars to reopen Wednesday under a statewide executive order, but the county judge says only one so far one has indicated plans to do so.

“We only have three that I’m aware of, which are all inside the Marshall city limits which are affected by this,” Harrison County Judge Chad Sims said Wednesday. Of those, only the Elks Lodge had reached out to let him know they are getting back in business. Sims said it is possible that the other two don’t plan to reopen.

Bars across Texas have been shut down for months due to coronavirus restrictions. An order signed by Gov. Gregg Abbott last week allows bars in qualifying counties to open up shop again starting October 14, as long as they have a hospitalization rate of no more than 15%

That means that if a hospital has 100 beds, only 15 of them can be filled with COVID-19 patients. If the number rises above 15%, bars will be required to close until the number falls below that percentage point for seven consecutive days. 

Bars that do opt to reopen must still operate at no more than 50% capacity.

Harrison is one of four Texas counties in the ArkLaTex that have opted into allowing bars to reopen. The other three are Bowie, Panola, and Cass.

While Sims notes that Marshall doesn’t have a big “nightlife scene,” he believes the bars in his county should have the same opportunity to reopen as any other business.

“These are legitimate businesses that have not been able to reopen. We’ve had restaurants that also have bars open that have been open for a number of weeks. I just think for a business it’s unfair to restrict those bars that have not been able to re-open when other very similar establishments have been allowed to re-open.”

As long as the coronavirus remains relatively in check in Harrison County, Sims hopes more businesses will reopen their doors.

“I want people to go back and enjoy things and do things. I want them to do it safely. So as long as they’re doing that and we can keep our case count low I’m all for re-opening these businesses.”

Judge Sims said there were 40 active cases in Harrison County as of Tuesday.

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