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Secrets Of The TABC Reports

Secrets of the TABC reports: Golf, strip club and restaurant shockers — plus how boobs drive alcohol

Doc's Westheimer Project March 2014 Exterior Perspective
Licenses with zero revenue include the upcoming Doc's that will open soon on Westheimer.  Courtesy of Mark Odom Studio
8, TopGolf Houston West, December 2012, The line to get into the VIP grand opening party at TopGolf Houston West on Dec. 3
Although it only opened at the end of 2012, Houstonians have embraced Top Golf - making it the fifth highest selling TABC license holder in May. Photo by Paul Archer
Brasserie 19 Houston exterior day
Brasserie 19 is Houston's highest revenue non-steakhouse restaurant. Google Plus
Treasures, men's club, stip club, December 2012
Strip clubs like Treasures continue to earn big bucks.  Treasures Houston
3 Vallone's bar December 2013
So far, Houstonians are spending more money at the nearby CityCentre Capital Grille than at Vallone's. Photo by Julie Soefer/Courtesy of Vallone's
Doc's Westheimer Project March 2014 Exterior Perspective
8, TopGolf Houston West, December 2012, The line to get into the VIP grand opening party at TopGolf Houston West on Dec. 3
Brasserie 19 Houston exterior day
Treasures, men's club, stip club, December 2012
3 Vallone's bar December 2013
Eric Sandler head shot column mug March 2014

In general, CultureMap readers had three reactions to the first edition of our new series Secrets of the TABC Reports that uses data from the monthly State Comptroller's Office Mixed Beverage Gross Receipts tax reports (which are known colloquially as the TABC report, after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission). Industry insiders who already read the data religiously shrugged their shoulders; they're already well acquainted with the figures. Others wondered why no one had brought the numbers to light before (are food writers scared of Excel and math?)

Still, the most common response was appreciation for sharing the info from a general population that didn't realize it exists. While the TABC data doesn't tell the whole story of a restaurant's viability, they do provide some insight into who's up and who's down: Which restaurants people are patronizing rather than those that get all the media attention. 

This month, it's time to try and tease out some new trends.

Houstonians love Top Golf.

The combination of food, booze and tracking the flight of golf balls has proven irresistible for Houstonians. Top Golf is booming.

The Spring location reported more than $500,000 in monthly liquor sales, and the location in West Houston reported more than $625,000, which is good for the fifth highest total within the city limits of Houston. If the Spring location were in Houston, it would be 12th, just behind Pappas Bros. Steakhouse and ahead of the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel.

The numbers for Top Golf are also comfortably ahead of places where people play actual golf, like the River Oaks Country Club ($288,000 in sales) or the Houston Country Club ($250,000). When one considers what each location must be doing in food sales, bay rentals and catering, the revenues are truly staggering. Can a third location be far behind?   

Houstonians love strip clubs, but not quite as much as Top Golf.

After ducking the topic last month, yes, some strip clubs do massive sales. Galleria institution The Men's Club reports the highest total. At just over $400,000, it's the 15th highest-grossing spot in Houston. Hot on its heels are The St. James (18th at $375,000), Treasures (34th at $270,000) and Michael's International (38th at $260,000).

 Boobs, fully exposed or not, are clearly good for business. 

Of course, the city's most popular Twin Peaks location clocks in very highly, too (30th at $293,000), so boobs, fully exposed or not, are clearly good for business. If avoiding crowds is part of the appeal, consider a place like The Colorado Sports Bar & Grill (182th at $132,000) or The Diamond Club Cabaret (1,700th at $6,800). 

Even in the world of strip clubs, some places do a lot better than others.

CityCentre does well, but Gateway Memorial City is still developing.

The number of chain restaurants packed into the CityCentre mixed use development may not make it much of a foodie destination, but the places within it certainly sell a lot of alcohol. In contrast, the restaurants within the recently opened Gateway Memorial City complex have received generally positive write-ups but are still finding their footing in terms of attracting diners.

For example, RA Sushi is more of a happy hour spot than a restaurant for fish-obsessed purists, but it still reported a healthy $140,000 in alcohol sales in May. In contrast, Kuu, which has a sushi-focused wine list and offers an intriguing mix of specialty cocktails, reported just under $42,000 in sales.

 The number of chain restaurants packed into the CityCentre may not make it much of a foodie destination, but the places within it certainly sell a lot of alcohol.  

A similar discrepancy exists within the steakhouses. The Capital Grille is a high-end concept from the Darden empire (Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Yard House, etc); it's a national brand with a big name, even if it isn't quite as well regarded as places like Del Frisco's or Morton's. Still, the CityCentre location, which only opened in November, reported a robust $151,000 in sales.

Compare that with Vallone's, the steakhouse in Gateway Memorial City operated by one of Houston's most high-profile restaurateurs Tony Vallone. Despite the big name, Vallone's, which opened in December, only sold $110,000 in alcohol in May, up from $78,000 in April. 

Houston's Top 5 non-steakhouses, by alcohol revenue

Having noted last month that steakhouses remain some of Houston's most popular venues for buying booze, let's look at which non-steakhouses are leading the way in alcohol sales. Here are the Top 5 non-chain, non-steakhouse restaurants by  revenue:

5. El Tiempo Cantina, Washington Ave.: $237,000
4. Corner Table/1919 Wine & Mixology: $252,000
3. Caracol: $287,000
2. Brennan's of Houston: $321,000
1. Brasserie 19: $442,000

It's worth observing that Caracol is booming even as its next door neighbor, Osteria Mazzantini, has come very close to closing its doors. It's no wonder that other restaurateurs are interested in the space.

Licenses with zero revenue help show what's coming.

More than 150 license holders in Houston reported zero revenue in May. Some of them represent bars and restaurants that have recently departed (R.I.P. Blanco's), but others preview the bars and restaurants that Houstonians will be talking about in the months to come.

A few highlights include the lower Westheimer location of Austin-import Doc's Motorworks, the soon to launch party spot Revelry on Richmond, the very recently opened Tex-Mex restaurant The El Cantina Superior and the long-anticipated downtown location of Pappas Bros. Steakhouse.

Next month, I'll break down some per square foot calculations for downtown vs. Midtown and look at some of the city's most popular nightclubs. Want to know more about a specific topic? Suggest it in the comments. 

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