Texas Gov. Greg Abbott slammed Austin Mayor Steve Adler and threatened legal action after Adler announced new restrictions on restaurant and bar activity for several days over the New Year holiday.
Adler issued an order on Tuesday placing a curfew on dine-in services by restaurants and bars. From Dec. 31 through Jan. 3, such businesses must stop all dine-in services from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. The order would effectively stop restaurants and bars from serving any customers who wanted to celebrate the coming of the new year at their businesses.
“This shutdown order by Austin isn’t allowed. Period. My executive order stops cities like Austin from arbitrarily shutting down businesses,” Abbott tweeted Tuesday in response to the order. “The city has a responsibility to enforce existing orders, not make new ones.”
Abbott’s response was followed up by a threat Wednesday by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that the state would take legal action against the city of Austin if Adler’s order is not rescinded. Paxton also issued a warning to Travis County Judge Andy Brown, who extended Adler’s order over Travis County, where Austin is located.
“Your orders violate Governor Abbott’s Executive Order No. GA-32. You must rescind or modify the local orders immediately or face imminent legal action from the state,” Paxton wrote in a letter to Adler and Brown.
Abbott’s executive order “supersede[s] any conflicting order issued by local officials in response to the COVID-19 disaster, but only to the extent that such a local order restricts services allowed by th[e] executive order,” Paxton continued, quoting from the executive order. “Again, you must immediately rescind or, at a minimum, modify your orders to fully comply with GA-32.”
Adler defended his actions limiting restaurant and bar business over the holiday on Tuesday.
“I don’t call this a curfew, because in my mind, that gives rise to a lot of things that are much broader than the order we have here. We are not restricting people’s movements, their ability to be able to travel around, their ability to go to the drug store or the grocery store if you’re out at night,” Adler said, according to KXAN. “So I think what is more descriptive is, kind of just the modification of operations for restaurants; I think that’s probably the most apt description.”
The Texas Restaurant Association put out a statement praising Abbott and his administration’s actions to defend Austin’s food and bar scene from the mayor’s order.
“We are very grateful to @GovAbbott and @KenPaxtonTX for defending Austin restaurants. Restaurants are deeply invested within their communities, and so they continue to do all they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, often at tremendous cost. As such, we cannot support policies that are not rooted in data and are unlikely to decrease the spread even as they further devastate the local businesses that make Austin special,” the industry group said in a statement.
“Closing indoor dining will not prevent holiday celebrations; it will simply move them from highly regulated businesses into completely unregulated spaces at a critical time in our COVID-19 response. The public is exhausted and confused, and it’s past time that our leaders stop looking for scapegoats and rally around those prevention strategies that we know work like wearing a mask, social distancing, and avoiding unregulated gatherings,” the association added.
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