Texas Passes Booze To-Go … So, Now What?

Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law House Bill 1024 on Wednesday, which opens up a wealth of to-go alcohol options to people across the state of Texas. It comes a little more than a year after Texas restaurants were first permitted through a waiver to sell booze for takeout purposes, a move that was responding to revenue loss during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This new law will help businesses keep their doors open and ensure Texans keep their jobs,” said Bentley Nettles, executive director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, in a press release about the new law. “TABC is grateful to Governor Abbott and members of the Texas Legislature for their leadership on this critically important measure. And a big thank you goes out to the efforts of alcohol retailers who have been safely and responsibly selling alcohol to go under last year’s waiver.”

But the law doesn’t mean that every restaurant and bar can just go ahead and start selling to-go margaritas. There is nuance here.

First, businesses with TABC mixed beverage or private club permits, along with a food and beverage certificate, are permitted to sell under the law (wine and beer retailers were already allowed). These eligible businesses, per the bill, may:

Allow customers to pick up alcohol with food orders
Deliver alcohol with food orders to customers
Use third parties or permit-eligible independent contractors to make deliveries that include alcohol

However, the alcohol cannot come alone. It must be included in a food order, though no ratio of food to alcohol is required. (A bag of chips and 36 beers? Fine.)

Also, beer, wine, and individual spirits must be inside a manufacturer-sealed container. Cocktail kits go under this heading. But, if an eligible establishment wants to sell a mixed beverage, it has to put it in a tamper-proof container labeled with the permit holder’s business name.

Finally, alcohol can not be delivered past two miles beyond the city limits where the business is located, and the recipient must be at least 21, provide identification, sign a receipt, and—yes—not be drunk.

“The Texas Restaurant Association and our members applaud Gov. Abbott and the Texas Legislature for fast-tracking HB 1024 to ensure restaurants maintain their ability to sell alcohol to-go,” said Emily Williams Knight, Ed.D., president and CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association, in a press release. “Gov. Abbott’s emergency waiver allowing alcohol to-go during the pandemic saved thousands of restaurant jobs, creating a new revenue stream and unleashing the innovation that restaurants will need to rebuild from the pandemic. We still have a long road to recovery ahead, but with tools like alcohol to-go, the restaurant industry’s future is brighter than ever in Texas.”

So, time to enjoy more take-out beer, wine, spirits, and cocktails. One business called Ready to Drink is already a step ahead. Happy drinking.

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