KEY QUESTION: What is required for a mass gathering?
MAIN REFERENCE POINT: Texas Health and Safety Code Chapter 751
- 1. A Mass Gathering is defined under Chapter 751 of the Texas Health and Safety Code as an event that can be defined by the following three conditions:
- A. A gathering that is held outside the limits of a municipality; AND
- B. A gathering that attracts or is expected to attract more than 2,500 people, or more than 500 people if 51 percent or more of those people may be reasonably expected to be younger than 21 years of age and it is planned or may be reasonably expected that alcoholic beverages will be sold, served, or consumed at or around the gathering; AND
- C. A gathering where participants will remain for more than five continuous hours, or for any amount of time beginning at 10:00 p.m. and ending at 4:00 a.m.
- 2. A person may not promote a mass gathering without a permit from the county judge. An application from the coordinator, manager, organizer or promoter of such an event must be received in the county judge’s office not less than 45 days before the event.
- 3. The application must include key pieces of information required by statute, such as the maximum number of persons the promoter will allow to attend the mass gathering and the plan the promoter intends to use to limit attendance to that number; a description of all preparations being made to provide traffic control, to ensure that the mass gathering will be conducted in an orderly manner, and to protect the physical safety of the persons who attend the mass gathering; and a description of the preparations made to provide adequate medical and nursing care. See the statute for the full list.
- 4. After a permit application is filed with the county judge, the county judge must send a copy of the application to the county health authority, the county fire marshal or the person designated by commissioners court, and the sheriff. Chapter 751 details the required inspections and reports by these representatives, which are due to the judge at least five days before the required public hearing.
- 5. This public hearing must be conducted no later than 10 days before the event, to be coordinated by the county judge’s office with all affected parties. The hearing will be posted as a public meeting.
- 6. Representatives from the county health authority, county fire marshal or commissioners court designee, and the sheriff must be available at the hearing to give testimony relating to their reports.
- 7. Following the public hearing, the county judge will grant or deny the permit. The statute provides additional details on reasons for denying a permit, appealing the judge’s decision, and revocation of a mass gathering permit.
- 8. After the public hearing, the Texas Board of Health must adopt rules relating to minimum standards of health and sanitation to be maintained at the mass gathering, and the Department of Public Safety must adopt rules relating to minimum standards that must be maintained to protect public safety and maintain order.
- 9. The county health authority, the county fire marshal or the person designated by the commissioners court, and the sheriff may inspect a mass gathering during the mass gathering event.
- 10. The commissioners court may establish and collect a fee for an inspection performed for a mass gathering. The fee may not exceed the amount necessary to defray the costs of performing the inspections and must be deposited into the general fund of the county. In addition, the court may use money collected to reimburse the county department or a state agency the cost of performing the inspection.
- 11. An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000, confinement in the county jail for not more than 90 days, or both.
- 12. The county judge may delegate his or her duty to hear application for a permit by filing an order with the commissioners court.