When the new Montrose Market H-E-B opened Nov. 16, excited area residents might have noticed one section of the 78,000-square-foot store in particular: The cordoned off beer and wine section.
H-E-B was likely in an understandable rush to open before Thanksgiving and did so before the grocer had secured its liquor license from the TABC. Like the Montrose Whole Foods, it plans a craft beer and wine bar, near the coffee shop, where shoppers can buy alcohol to consume on-site.
Now almost one month later, the market has still failed to secure its liquor license, due in part to a protest by nearby St. Stephen's Episcopal School. (Although the church's main campus is more than the required 300 feet away on the corner of West Alabama and Woodhead, a smaller satellite building used for classrooms is closer to the H-E-B site on the corner of Woodhead and Sul Ross.)
The TABC Houston field office confirms that St. Stephen's protested the license and that a hearing has already taken place on the issue. TABC attorney Sandra Patton tells CultureMap that it's now up to a county judge to deny or grant the license, which should happen in the next few weeks. If the judge denies the license, Patton says H-E-B can file for an appeal in district court or request another hearing.
A spokesperson for H-E-B and for St. Stephen's could not immediately be reached for comment.
It's more than a buzzkill for area residents who were excited for the opening of the new flagship store, especially given the recent news reported by Swamplot and the Houston Chronicle that the Fiesta across the street, which has been in operation 50 years and has been a long-time neighborhood favorite for its extensive and reasonably priced wine department, might be on the way out.
Owner Suzanne Levin has hired Cushman & Wakefield to market the nearly 4-acre property that currently houses Fiesta and several smaller stores and is said to be entertaining offers. Variance signs posted around the strip center that houses the grocer indicate that a new development is in the works in its place, and employees at the antiques store in the same shopping center said a mid-rise is rumored for the property.
Tell us: Are you disappointed to hear that Fiesta might be closing? Are you surprised H-E-B opened without its liquor license?