Fort Worth fire marshals increasing patrols this week for COVID code compliance

Fort Worth fire marshals are increasing patrols around entertainment hotspots this week ahead of what’s expected to be a big week for people who want to go out.

Code enforcement is on standby in case bars or restaurants are not following COVID-19 protocols.

The Fort Worth Fire Department is expecting a busy holiday weekend for restaurants and bars. So they’re preparing to make stops around town starting Wednesday to make sure business owners and patrons are following state laws and county orders.

“As good as intentions as there have been, it has been a big challenge for everybody to try to adapt to these required changes,” said Fort Worth Fire Chief Jim Davis.

Those include 50% occupancy for bars, 75% for restaurants and a mask on your face when you’re not eating or drinking.

Chief Davis says for the most part business owners have been cooperative.

This long holiday weekend, fire marshals want to keep it that way.

“They will be making spot inspections, looking for overcrowding situations, looking for issues that raise to the level of fire prevention related safety,” the chief said.

Davis says he’s dealt with overcrowding before. But when the bars reopened back in October, he realized the city needed a proactive approach.

First, there will be a reminder of capacity limits and providing PPE if needed. But if customers or business owners don’t want to comply, they’ll force everyone outside and count them one by one.

With an empty Taverna and closed Cantina Laredo just across the street from his Fort Worth restaurant, John Bonnell has grown increasingly concerned about the decline in business.

“I fired 330 people on March 18th. We’ve gotten just over half of them back,” he said. “I’m asking you, I’m begging you: Please do not shut us down and send everybody back home again.”

Tarrant County can’t make decisions, like stay at home orders or restaurant closings, without the state’s permission. It does have the ability to close bars, according to the governor’s order giving counties permission to open or close them.

Bonnell is making it clear enforcement has his full support.

“I understand that this is not a hoax. That this is not something that was made up for political reasons,” he said. “If you’ve got people who are egregiously packing the house, not going by any social standards that we think are smart.  Not any of them. No mask rules, no distancing, go look at them, take their liquor license off the walls, they deserve it.”

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