LOWERING THE BAR

Dozens of Austin bars fined for violating COVID-19 safety rules

Dozens of Austin bars fined for violating COVID-19 safety rules

Antone's downtown venue Fifth Street 2016 bar liquor bottles alcohol brands
Twenty-five Austin bars recently cited and fined for violating COVID-19 safety rules. Photo by Daniel Cavazos

Austin and Travis County have again reached Stage 5 — the highest level of COVID-19 community risk — and more than two dozen Austin bars are in hot water for violating local and state safety rules.

Interim Medical Director and Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott says such violations have directly contributed to a rise in local COVID-19 cases among young populations.

“Unfortunately, we have many bars that are not behaving well and are contributing to these cases,” Escott said during a Travis County Commissions Court session December 22. “So, if we could close one thing, that one thing would be bars. I think we need to look at that. I think the state needs to look at that again and decide whether it’s time to close the loophole that’s allowed the bars to reopen.”

The City of Austin released a list of the bars — mostly located along Sixth Street — that have received at least one citation from the fire marshal since the beginning of October, with several accruing more than one, resulting in the bars being cited and fined for the violations. Escott notes the fines could have been avoided if the bars had heeded previous warnings from enforcement officials.

“In order to receive a citation, there are multiple warnings that proceed this with recommendations to mitigate that and avoid citations,” he said.

The Austin bars recently cited and fined for COVID-19 violations include:

  • Concrete Cowboy, 719 W. Sixth St. (two citations since October)
  • Play, 620 W. Sixth St. (three citations since October)
  • Rio, 601 Rio Grande St.
  • Unbarlievable, 513 W. Sixth St.
  • Wyld, 706 W. Sixth St.
  • Burnsides, 413 E Sixth St.
  • Dijou, 415 E. Sixth St.
  • Library, 407 E. Fourth St.
  • Lit Lounge, 215 E. Sixth St.
  • Lodge, 411 E Sixth St.
  • Pour Choices, 401 Sixth St.
  • Recess, 222 E. Sixth St.
  • Soho Lounge, 217 E. Sixth St. (three violations since October)
  • Venue, 516 E. Sixth St. (four violations since October)
  • Voodoo, 419 E. Sixth St. (two violations since October)
  • 512 Club, 408 E. Sixth St.
  • 4th and Co., 208 W. Fourth St.
  • Reina, 78 Rainey St.
  • Scratchouse, 617 E. Seventh St.
  • Dirty Bills, 511 Rio Grande St.
  • Yellow Jacket Social Club, 1704 E. Fifth St.
  • 77 Degrees/Rose Room, 11500 Rock Rose Ave.
  • Corona Club, 10503 N. Lamar Blvd.
  • Mala Vida, 1800 E. Sixth St.
  • Chupacabra, 708 E. Sixth St. 

Though it was unclear which specific rules these bars violated, the city’s current stay-home order requires all individuals and business establishments to practice “social distancing, hygiene, and face-covering behaviors.” 

These violations aren’t the first Austin bars have committed during the pandemic. In June, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission found that four Austin bars — including the West Sixth Street location of Unbarlievable and Soho Lounge — were violating COVID-19 protocols and were required to close for 30 days. Later that same month, the TABC suspended the liquor licenses of seven bars throughout Texas, including Austin’s The Park at The Domain, for violating Gov. Greg Abbott’s order requiring bars to close. 

“It’s time for us as a community to really band together to mask and distance and do those things that we know work,” Escott said. “If we can do that effectively, we can avoid further restrictions.”