Contrary to the Democratic governors in Michigan, New York, and California, who are gleeful in their newfound power to shut down every economic and cultural avenue of American life as they see fit, the governor of Texas is working hard to make sure he keeps his state open and moving. To do so, he occasionally comes into conflict with the Democratic leaders of cities like Austin, where the mayor just tried to circumvent state mandates by restricting bar and restaurant activity over the holidays.
On Tuesday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced that he was putting dining and bar establishments on restriction from Dec. 31 to January 3rd, demanding that they end all dine-in services from 10:30 at night until 6 the next morning. The order was transparently intended to keep these businesses from serving customers who wanted to bring in the new year with a nice meal or a couple of drinks in public.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, however, said that he wouldn’t stand idly by and watch the restrictions go into effect.
“This shutdown order by Austin isn’t allowed. Period. My executive order stops cities like Austin from arbitrarily shutting down businesses,” Abbott tweeted. “The city has a responsibility to enforce existing orders, not make new ones.”
Abbott’s warning was not without teeth; the next day, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton warned that if Mayor Adler did not rescind the order, he would face legal action.
“Your orders violate Governor Abbott’s Executive Order No. GA-32. You must rescind or modify the local orders immediately or face imminent legal action from the state,” Paxton wrote.
In comments to the press, Adler said his orders are only intended to keep the public safe.
“I don’t call this a curfew, because in my mind, that gives rise to a lot of things that are much broader than the order we have here. We are not restricting people’s movements, their ability to be able to travel around, their ability to go to the drug store or the grocery store if you’re out at night,” Adler said. “So I think what is more descriptive is, kind of just the modification of operations for restaurants; I think that’s probably the most apt description.”
After the governor and the attorney general took action to stop the restrictions, they were praised by the Texas Restaurant Association.
“We are very grateful to @GovAbbott and @KenPaxtonTX for defending Austin restaurants. Restaurants are deeply invested within their communities, and so they continue to do all they can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, often at tremendous cost. As such, we cannot support policies that are not rooted in data and are unlikely to decrease the spread even as they further devastate the local businesses that make Austin special,” the group said.