bottoms up

Houston restaurants could soon sell alcohol to-go forever thanks to new bill

Houston restaurants could sell alcohol to-go forever with new bill

Backstreet Cafe mint julep kit
Cocktail kits could become a permanent offering. Courtesy of Backstreet Cafe

The Texas Legislature has taken the first steps towards permanently allowing Houston restaurants to sell alcohol to go. Filed by senator Kelly Hancock and representative Charlie Geren, SB 298 / HB 1094 would codify Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency waiver that allows restaurant to sell beer, wine, and cocktails with pickup and delivery food orders.

As CultureMap has previously reported, the governor signed a waiver allowing restaurants to sell beer, wine, and mixed drinks for both to-go and delivery — providing that the drinks are served with food and met certain packaging requirements.

Restaurants had been allowed to sell alcoholic beverages through a delivery service beginning in 2019. Abbott’s waiver allowed consumers to pick up their drinks without utilizing a third party, expanded which establishments could offer them, and allowed for pre-mixed cocktails.

The Texas Restaurant Association supports the legislation, as does the Texas Package Stores Association. Being able to sell alcohol to-go has been an important source of revenue for restaurants that have had to deal with capacity limits and other restrictions designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“The Texas Restaurant Association looks forward to working with the Texas Legislature and all interested stakeholders to ensure SB 298 / HB 1094 passes and is signed into law this session,” TRA President and CEO Emily Williams Knight said in a statement.. “This pandemic has been an incredibly difficult time for the food and beverage industry, but our restaurants are resilient and ready to rebuild, and permanent tools like alcohol to-go will help immensely.”

Furthermore, restaurants have begun to incorporate the ability to sell alcohol to-go into their future business plans. Earlier this week, chef Chris Shepherd told CultureMap that one reason he selected Market Square Tower as the home for Georgia James Tavern is the ability to sell cocktail packages to the building’s residents.

“We can offer things to the residents that I look at and say this could work really well,” Shepherd said. “If you’re going to the pool, here’s a couple of bottled cocktails to-go.”

The Texas Legislative session begins Tuesday, January 12.