Press Releases

Mayor Sylvester Turner Orders Prohibiting Large Gatherings and Temporary Restrictions on Bars and Food Establishments

Houston • March 19, 2020




WHEREAS, on March 11, 2020, the Mayor of the City of Houston, pursuant to the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, as amended, Texas Government Code Annotated, Chapter 418, {the "Texas Disaster Act"} issued a proclamation declaring a local state of disaster for a public health emergency for the City of Houston resulting from the imminent threat to the public health and the potential for loss of life and property of people and communities of the City caused by the introduction, transmission, or spread {or imminent threat of the same} of the disease known as "coronavirus disease 2019" {"COVID-19"}; and 

WHEREAS, on March 17, 2020, the City Council of the City of Houston approved an ordinance authorizing the continuation of the local state of disaster for a public health emergency; and

WHEREAS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that widespread transmission of COVID-19 would translate into large numbers of people needing medical care at the same time; schools, childcare centers, workplaces, and other places for mass gatherings may experience more absenteeism; public health and healthcare systems may become overloaded with elevated rates of hospitalizations and deaths; other critical infrastructure, such as law enforcement, emergency medical services, and transportation industry may also be affected; and health care providers and hospitals may be overwhelmed; and 

WHEREAS, the President's Coronavirus Guidelines for America, issued on March 16, 2020, state that social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people should be avoided. WHEREAS, as of the effective date, approximately 5 persons in the City of Houston and 30 persons in the region have tested positive for COVID-19 and it is anticipated that the number of persons diagnosed with the virus is likely to increase, as testing for the virus continues; and

WHEREAS, the City and the City of Houston's Local Health Authority are taking steps to ensure the spread of COVID-19 is contained, the community is kept safe, and the exposure risk is minimized; and

WHEREAS, Section 418.108 of the Texas Disaster Act authorizes the mayor of a municipality to, among other things, control ingress to and egress from a disaster area under the mayor's jurisdiction and to control the movement of persons and the occupancy of persons in that area; and

WHEREAS, I, the Mayor of the City of Houston have determined that additional proactive measures, including enhanced community mitigation, must be taken to respond to and slow the potential introduction, transmission, or spread {or imminent threat of the same} of COVID-19 in the City of Houston; and


Section 1.            That the findings and recitations set out in the preamble to this ORDER are found

to be true and correct and they are hereby adopted and made a part hereof for all purposes.


Section 2.            Beginning no later than March 17, 2020, at 8:00 A.M. and continuing until April

30, 2020, at 11:59 PM (the "Term”):


Section 2.01      Any event attended by more than 50 people at the same time at any

building owned in whole or in part by the City of Houston or controlled by the City of

Houston under a lease is hereby cancelled during the Term. This includes but is not limited

to events organized, sponsored or produced by parties under contracts between third

parties and the City of Houston or entities managing City of Houston property.


Section 2.02      Parades, festivals, gatherings, and meetings sponsored, produced and

permitted by the City are hereby cancelled during the Term.


Section 3.            Subject to Section 5, dining on the premises of businesses that have City of Houston

Food Dealer's permits to operate as Food Establishments pursuant to Chapter 20 of the Houston Code of

Ordinances shall cease until March 31, 2020. Nothing herein precludes the provision of any other food service,

such as to-go, delivery, or drive-through services, by such businesses.


Section 4.            Consuming alcoholic beverages within the enclosed premises of any business,

including nightclubs and bars as defined in Section 21-17 of the Houston Code of Ordinances, shall cease

and desist and such businesses shall close until March 31, 2020; provided, however, that any business that has a

City of Houston Food Dealer1s permit to operate as a Food Establishment pursuant to Chapter 20 of the Houston

Code of Ordinances may continue Food Establishment operations that are not prohibited under Section 3 of this Order.

Hotel and Country Club bars must close, except that any permitted food or beverage service may be continued as

take·out, delivery, or drive-through services. Nothing in this Order affects the sale of food or alcoholic beverages

that will not be consumed at the point of sale, as permitted by State or local law.


Section 5.            The restrictions on the operation of Food Establishments imposed by this Order

do not apply to any of the following:


Section 5.01 Food Establishments within or operated by hospitals, rehabilitation or

medical facilities, universities, colleges, schools, child care facilities, group homes, crisis

and homeless shelters, religious facilities, assisted living facilities, food banks serving low

income citizens, retirement communities, congregate care facilities, long term care

facilities, jails, Hobby Airport, George Bush Intercontinental Airport, hotels that serve

only hotel guests, or other businesses pursuant to written authorization granting an

exception to this Order issued by the Mayor of the City of Houston.


Section 6.            This Order does not alter any of the obligations under law of any employer

affected by this Order to its employees or to the employees of another.


Section 7.            The owner, manager, operator, or other person having control of or in charge of

a Food Service Establishment subject to this Order shall conspicuously post a copy of this

Order onsite such that the Order is visible to the users of the facility or the public.


Section 8.            Unless a different penalty is provided elsewhere in the Houston Code of

Ordinances, violation of any provision of this ORDER is a misdemeanor offense punishable under

Section 13-6 of the Houston Code of Ordinances which provides for a fine not less than $200 nor more

than $2,000. Each day a violation continues constitutes a separate offense.


Section 9.            All persons are directed to comply with this Order and to comply with the lawful

direction of all persons authorized to enforce this Order under Chapter 13-7 of the City of Houston Code

of Ordinances.


Section 10.          If any subsection, sentence, clause, phrase, or word of this Order or any

application of it to any person, structure, gathering, or circumstance is held to be invalid or

unconstitutional by a decision of a court of competent jurisdiction, then such decision will not affect the

validity of this Order.


Section 11.          The term may be extended by Order of the Mayor of the City of Houston.


Section 12.          That, in accordance with the Texas Disaster Act, this declaration shall take effect

on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, at 8:00 A.M.


SO DECLARED AND ORDERED this the 19th day of March, 2020.