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As Dallas Mandates That All Bars And Restaurant Dining Rooms In The City Shut Down Over The Coronavirus, Fort Worth Asks That We Spread Out Our Bar Stools?

Update at 7:15 p.m. on March 17: At a press conference on Tuesday evening, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price finally announced a mandate that all bars and restaurants within city limits must close all operations beyond take-out and delivery service within the next 24 hours.

“Everybody knows this is a fluid situation,” Price said. “It is continuing to evolve and, for that reason, I’m announcing that in the next 24 hours, you will see the city of Fort Worth enact tighter restrictions on public spaces and public buildings. All bars and restaurants will be take-out only.”

It isn’t altogether clear why Price waited until today to make a decision in line with the one Dallas had enacted a day previously. She did, however, seem to express some regret over the decision during her address.

“We do need to make improvements to our social distancing plans,” the Fort Worth mayor said.

You can watch the whole press conference here.

Original story follows. — Pete Freedman

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Earlier tonight, right around the same time that Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson mandated that all Dallas bars, restaurants, gyms and other places that people like to spend their time and money in were being closed in order to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price was hosting a press conference of her own.

There, she announced that, starting at midnight tonight, all Fort Worth businesses will be limited in capacity to half the number on their certificates of occupancy (e.g. an 80-person capacity place is cut to 40), with a maximum occupancy of 125. Included in this declaration are, according to Forth Worth Police Department Chief Ed Kraus, “restaurants, bars, event centers, gyms, hotel restaurants, retail stores, theaters, grocery stores, public buildings, plazas, houses of worship such as churches, synagogues, and mosques, and malls.”

Chief Kraus then made these recommendations for restaurants and bars: “We strongly encourage take-out, curbside service when available, as opposed to sit-down dining. Remove every other chair at a bar to implement adequate social distancing, seat customers at every other table in a checkerboard fashion, again to maintain social distancing, and have staff keep track of the customers inside the establishment.”

Then Fort Worth Fire Department Chief Jim Davis drew Garfield on a napkin — not really, but is name actually is Jim Davis — and said some things about how the fire department is ready to enforce the fire code within city limits.

When Davis finished, Mayor Price amended Chief Kraus’ proclamation about what places were limited in occupancy.

“This does not apply to grocery stores,” she said. “We want you to stay home and have the food that you need.”

I am not sure that those two statements go together because “In the year 2020” nothing seems real anyway, but I guess you can go to Kroger as long as you don’t linger with more than 124 people besides yourself.

The third guest on Betsy Price Tonight was Fort Worth Public Health Director Brandon Bennet, and he didn’t have a lot of useful things to say.

Mayor Price then did her Jerry Springer’s Final Thought impression at the end with a message of making the most of being quarantined, hyping board games, reading, Facebooking with friends and FaceTiming with grandparents. She also made it clear that keeping businesses open is at least as important as containing the spread of coronavirus.

But in what world is a group of 125 people safe from spreading a highly contagious virus?

I get the part about keeping businesses open for as long as possible, but I think it is a reckless and myopic view of how easily this shit spreads.

The idea that a business should have no more than 125 people is absurd, especially when even that orange-faced moron Price venerates said today that people shouldn’t gather in groups greater than 10.

Halving occupancy is not good policy.

Neither were the platitudes offered up by Bennet, like when he said, “This virus doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t say ‘Hey, you’re a Fort Worth resident, I’m not going to infect you.”

Well, duh. Who would even think that?

Bennet also said these occupancy measures are “to protect Fort Worth residents from illness and loss of life” — but, y’know, not so much that you risk flack for telling people something they don’t want to hear.

Obviously, many small businesses are on the edge here. But another thing that slipped out of Orange Ghoulius’ clueless, puckering face today was that the virus probably wouldn’t be contained until “July or August—something like that.”

It seems to me that in order to have this thing all wrapped up at the end of the summer just like, according to Trump, “people have said,” then it’s better to just keep us all at home, to try to seal off Coronavirus now, to close all those places now.

We are all fucked in pretty serious ways. But we will be 100 times more fucked (or, if you prefer, “fuckeder”) the longer we allow people to mingle and breathe in each other’s air.

Like, seriously, remove every other bar stool? How far apart do you think most bar stools are, Chief Kraus? Give me a fucking break.

I get that people are worried about going broke, either because they can’t work or because they can’t stay open. I’m right there with the rest of you; I bartend at Fort Worth’s Boiled Owl Tavern myself, and I’m pretty worried, to be honest.

But if the city cares so much about small businesses, maybe it should offer some financial assistance that will allow these spots to close so that the city can truly be, in the words of Chief Kraus, “mindful of the public health implications.” Or perhaps the TABC could do us all a solid and refund or rebate or waive all liquor license fees paid during this year? I dunno.

I just know that I will go into work and do my best not to inhale. I also know that we at the Owl are going to great lengths to keep things disinfected.

It’s a tough decision to make, choosing between public health and keeping a business running that pays the bills of a couple dozen people.

But this is one of those times where the city should make the decision for us.

The sooner we stop the virus’ spread, the sooner we can get back to shots and beers.

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