Mayor Ron Nirenberg mandated Wednesday that the dining rooms of all San Antonio bars and restaurants temporarily close beginning at midnight. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

To further prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Mayor Ron Nirenberg mandated Wednesday that the dining rooms of all San Antonio bars and restaurants temporarily close beginning at midnight.

All bars and restaurants will be closed to in-house patrons for the next 30 days, with restaurants allowed to continue operating drive-through service and fulfilling takeout orders for curbside pickup. Gov. Greg Abbott loosened state laws Wednesday to permit restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with food orders.

The temporary shutdown order also includes gyms, bingo parlors, bowling alleys, health studios, commercial amusement businesses, and other entertainment businesses confined to a single indoor space, Nirenberg said, and violators will be fined. See the order for more details.

The move to close such establishments follows the mayor’s decision Monday to issue an emergency public health order banning all “mass gatherings” of 50 people or more.

“We are now entering the most difficult phase in the rapidly changing battle against the virus,” Nirenberg said in a press conference. “Because we are entering this new phase, I’m issuing a declaration of public health emergency order number four, which adds more restrictions on public gatherings to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus.”

The decision mirrors that of other major cities nationwide, including Dallas, Houston, and Austin, which closed bars and restaurants earlier this week.

Earlier in the day, chefs such as Stefan Bowers of Playland and Battalion began promoting curbside services and menus in lieu of dine-in.

San Antonio has more than 3,000 restaurants, most locally owned. Geoff Bezuidenhout, president of the San Antonio Restaurant Association, said given the trend of closures in Texas, the closure of dining rooms and bars in San Antonio did not come as a surprise.  

“We are still disappointed in this decision,” said Bezuidenhout, owner of Picnikins Cafe & Catering. “The mayor delayed this decision for as long as he felt he could. The few extra days gave us time to meet with our employees, families, and suppliers to form a plan of action unique to each of our establishments.”

He added that he and the state’s restaurant association leaders are advocating for the industry to reopen as soon as possible.

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in San Antonio climbed to 11 on Tuesday, closures among retail, hospitality, and other consumer outlets have been widespread.

Also Wednesday, Ingram Park Mall announced a temporary closure as many of its stores were closing their doors.

Nirenberg stopped short of calling for a curfew but discouraged citizens from leaving their homes after hours in order to “ease the burden of first responders.”

He also sought to prevent ongoing panic-buying in San Antonio. “I want to emphasize that food, water, and other essential goods are plentiful,” Nirenberg said. “We do not have shortages. The shelves have been empty at times because of unnecessary hoarding. I urge all of us San Antonians to behave responsibly.”

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Shari Biediger has been covering business and development for the San Antonio Report since 2017. A graduate of St. Mary’s University, she has worked in the corporate and nonprofit worlds in San Antonio...