Texas Unveils Phase One of Plan to Reopen Businesses

April 28, 2020Alerts

On April 27, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a multi-phase plan to reopen businesses. Phase One of the plan, set forth in an executive order, permits certain businesses to reopen effective this Friday, May 1, subject to certain conditions. Here’s what you need to know:

Businesses that may reopen

Gov. Abbott’s prior executive orders permitted businesses providing “essential services” to operate, as well as retail services to the extent provided through pickup, mail, or delivery. Under the latest order, starting May 1 and continuing through May 15, the following businesses may also reopen under the following conditions:

  • In-store retail services, but only at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the retail establishment
  • Dine-in restaurants with less than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages, but only at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the restaurant, and valet services must remain closed (except for vehicles with placards or plates for disabled parking)
  • Movie theatres, but only at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of any individual theatre
  • Shopping malls, but only at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy of the shopping mall, and food-court dining areas, play areas, and interactive displays and settings must remain closed
  • Museums and libraries, but only at up to 25 percent of the total listed occupancy, and interactive functions or exhibits, including child play areas must be closed (local public museums and libraries may also open subject to the same conditions if permitted by the local government)
  • Services provided by an individual working alone in an office;
  • Golf course operations
  • Local government operations, including county and municipal operations relating to permitting, recordation, and document-filing services, as determined by the local government

For counties that have attested to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) that they have five or fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19, the occupancy limits described above increase from 25 to 50 percent. Further, the executive order clarifies that the conditions for reopened services do not apply to “essential services,” which may continue operating as permitted by Gov. Abbott’s prior executive order.

Additionally, there is no statewide mask or face covering requirement. Instead, the latest executive order encourages individuals to wear appropriate face coverings, but precludes local governments from imposing civil or criminal penalties for failure to do so. Businesses should be aware, however, that certain Texas counties, including Dallas County, require employees of essential and reopened businesses to wear face coverings. These local face covering mandates do not appear to conflict with the statewide order, which provides that the statewide order supersedes conflicting local orders “only to the extent that such a local order restricts essential services or reopened services allowed by this executive order ….”

Next Steps

Gov. Abbott and his Strike Force to Open Texas will monitor developments between now and May 15. If positive health trends continue, Gov. Abbott is expected to announce Phase Two, which would expand the types of businesses that may reopen and increase occupancy of reopened services to 50 percent.

Fox Rothschild is monitoring the latest COVID-19 developments in Texas. Please contact Lee Szor if you have questions.