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VERIFY: No, the Houston Restaurant Association and the TABC do not have the authority to enforce mask mandates at restaurants

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order in March allowing all businesses in Texas to open to 100% capacity. It also ended the statewide mask mandate.

HOUSTON — If you have been out to eat recently, you may have noticed staff at some restaurants wear masks, while others do not. A couple of viewers asked the Verify team to find out whether there are rules about that and, if so, who is responsible for enforcing them?

Some local restaurants have taken to the internet to let patrons know about their COVID-19 policies. People are noticing.

Clifford wrote the Verify team, “Why am I seeing so many restaurant workers not wearing any COVID protections while preparing food for their customers? Does the Houston Restaurant Association or the TABC regulate what is or isn’t required? How is that enforced?”

We have three sources for this. The Texas Restaurant Association, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order, referred to as GA 34.

Gov. Abbott issued that executive order on March 2, 2021. It allowed all businesses in Texas to open to 100% capacity. It also ended the statewide mask mandate. The order gives business owners the right to limit capacity or make their own rules about safety protocols at their own discretion.

Executive Director of the Greater Houston Texas Restaurant Association, Melissa Stewart, tells the Verify team, “The restaurant association is a trade association. We do not have that kind of authority. Restaurants and retailers are on their own to make the choices they are most comfortable with.”

The TABC has dedicated a section of its website to coronavirus information to help restaurant owners and patrons understand the governor’s order.

The agency tells the Verify team, “At present, there are no state requirements for bar/restaurant workers related to COVID-19 safety. The agency does not enforce any local requirements which may exist.”

So, we can Verify, while some restaurants have implemented COVID-19 policies, the Houston Restaurant Association and the TABC do not have the authority to regulate or enforce them.

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