One industry that has been hit the hardest since the start of the pandemic has been the bar and nightclub industry, which relies heavily on crowds (particularly thirst crowds) to stay in business. While many bars and clubs have found ways to adapt to "social distancing" guidelines, many watering holes have remained shuttered due to statewide orders.

Finally, after months of legal wrangling, bars are going to be allowed to reopen on Wednesday thanks to Bell County Judge David Blackburn, who chose to opt-in on Governor Greg Abbott's executive order allowing bars to open at 50% capacity.

According to our news partners at News 10, Judge Blackburn filed the request on Monday with the TABC (Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission) after he says he consulted with local health authorities about case counts and was assured that the county has adequate hospital capacity.

Governor Abbott's order allows for county judges to "opt-in" on reopening if coronavirus hospitalizations are less than 15 percent of hospital capacity, and bars follow restrictions and reopening guidelines set by the state.

In a media release we received Monday evening, Judge Blackburn wrote that he will work closely with the TABC to ensure compliance with reopening restrictions, and that if there is a spike in hospitalizations or non-compliance by bars, he may revoke the reopening authorization for Bell County.

"I really don't want to see that happen", Judge Blackburn wrote. "What I want to see is all of our businesses in Bell County reopened. But, that depends, in large measure, on how well the bars comply with reopening restrictions that the Governor has set forth.

Bars will be expected to operate with the same seating and physical distancing requirements as restaurants. Governor Abbott's Office has released a Minimum Standard Health Protocols checklist for bars, which you can read here. They've also released a checklist for bar patrons, which can be found here.

So, where will you have your first cold one?

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