12 Texas bars temporarily lose alcohol permits for violating coronavirus restrictions

Authorities in Texas have temporarily suspended the liquor licenses for more than 10 bars over their failure to comply with state health restrictions meant to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) said Sunday that it has handed out 30-day suspensions to 12 bars as it proceeds with undercover investigations into how businesses are adhering to the state's reopening guidelines. Texas is currently in phase three of its reopening, which requires restaurants to limit indoor capacity to 75 percent and bars to 50 percent while maintaining social distancing. 

Videos and photos released by TABC showed patrons packed into bars located in Fort Worth and Houston. Other bars that temporarily lost their liquor licenses are located in Austin, Lubbock, El Paso and Dallas. The bars in question could receive 60-day suspensions if they continue to violate the restrictions, TABC said. 

"Protecting the health and safety of Texans during this pandemic is our top priority," TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles said. "We warned businesses TABC will have no tolerance for breaking the rules, and now, some bars are paying the price. I hope other establishments will learn from these suspensions."

The announcement came as certain parts of the U.S., including Texas, experience a new surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Texas health authorities reported 4,430 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, which represented a new high in the state. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpProsecutors focus Trump Organization probe on company's financial officer: report WHO official says it's 'premature' to think pandemic will be over by end of year Romney released from hospital after fall over the weekend MORE has downplayed the significance of the rising case counts, claiming they stem from an increase in testing. He quipped at a rally in Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday that he told White House aides to slow coronavirus testing for that reason. 

But Anthony FauciAnthony FauciMAGALand in Orlando CDC director warns states against lifting COVID-19 restrictions The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Third approved vaccine distributed to Americans MORE, the nation's top infectious disease expert and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said that a higher rate of testing is not responsible for the recent surge. He said last week that people's behavior may be partly to blame, saying it's "very risky” to congregate in places such as bars when “the location they are [in] indicates they shouldn’t be doing that.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) was one of the first state leaders to allow his initial quarantine order to expire, permitting some business to reopen under modified conditions starting in early May. He allowed the state to enter its third phase of reopening in early June. 

As of Monday, Texas health authorities had reported more than 111,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,182 deaths from it.