brewing up good eats

3 buzzy Houston breweries can now resume their restaurant operations

3 buzzy Houston breweries can now resume their restaurant operations

Saint Arnold beer garden exterior
Saint Arnold has resumed dine-in service at its outdoor beer garden. Courtesy of Saint Arnold Brewing Company

TABC has relented in its efforts to shutter the restaurants operated at Texas breweries. In a decision announced late Friday, July 24, the commission revised its opinion that Gov. Greg Abbott's order restriction dine-in operations to restaurants — defined as a business that makes less than 51 percent of its revenue from alcohol sales — does not include alcohol sold either for to-go or via a distributor for off-premise consumption/purchase (at a bar, restaurant, grocery store, etc.).

Locally, the change means that Saint Arnold, Karbach, and Buffalo Bayou may resume operating their restaurants. Both Buffalo Bayou and Saint Arnold resumed operations on Saturday, July 25, but Karbach remains closed. 

Previously, the commission stated that sales for off-premise consumption did count towards a brewery restaurant's revenue, which prompted their closure. At the time, Saint Arnold founder Brock Wagner said the decision "defies common sense" and called on Abbott to reverse it, which he did after two weeks.

Lennie Ambrose, the company's chief marketing officer, stated on last week's episode of CultureMap's "What's Eric Eating" podcast that Saint Arnold has received broad support in the community in its effort to encourage Abbott to relent, including from Silver Eagle Distributors. In a press release, Wagner thanked all those who lobbied the Governor to change the ruling.

"We cannot express how much we appreciate the massive outpouring of support we received from the community with so many people reaching out to the Governor’s office about this issue. Also, the coverage from the media on this topic helped the Governor become aware of the profound negative consequences of the previous interpretation of his order," Wagner said. "We also want to thank the Governor and the TABC for taking the time to reexamine the rule and amend it in a way that has a positive impact and follows the original intent and purpose of the order." 

Breweries with tap rooms that do not serve remain closed, as do tasting rooms at wineries and bars statewide. Currently, those breweries are only allowed to sell beer to-go to consumers who visit the their facilities. Wagner supports a petition being circulated by the Texas Craft Brewers Guild that would allow breweries to deliver or ship their beer to customers. The Guild estimates that as many as a third of Texas breweries could close if they are limited to direct to-go sales.