With restaurants and bars across the state shuttered due to state-mandated closures, it should come as no surprise that Texas’ liquor stores are seeing a sharp uptick in business, with many reporting sales similar to those posted during the holidays. Texans are stocking up on more than just toilet paper, it seems.
And it’s likely of little surprise that a recent analysis of Twitter data suggests the Lone Star State has consumed the most alcohol in the country since the outbreak of the COVID-19, coronavirus. Cooking website SeriouslySmoked.com reviewed more than 200,000 Twitter posts last month to conclude that Texas was tops in volume of tweets with alcohol-consumption references.
Even Gov. Greg Abbott has seemingly done his part to ensure his constituents can still enjoy a margarita or beer with their dinner while simultaneously aiding the struggling restaurant industry by waiving some Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations to allow eateries with a mixed-beverage permit to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks for takeout or delivery with a food purchase.
Abbott’s order did not specify any conditions beyond that, however, so it should come as no surprise that most restaurants are continuing to run afoul of the rules the TABC still expects them to follow.
Several restaurants in North Texas have been serving Moscow mules and mimosas in to-go cups while others have sold margaritas by the gallon, as a Friday Dallas Morning News article pointed out. But despite the waiver, restaurants in Texas aren’t allowed to serve a cocktail in a to-go cup — it must be in a manufacturer-sealed container.
“There has been some confusion with the governor’s waiver,” Chris Porter, a TABC spokesman, said in the article.
While the Texas Restaurant Association is working to educate restaurants across the state about what they can and cannot do with to-go alcohol sales, some are complying while others risk a visit from the TABC, whose auditors are making stops at those restaurants to ensure they understand the rules. The TABC is not issuing citations for now, but might later for repeat offenders, Porter said.
So how can restaurants take advantage of the waiver while still complying with the rules?
To sell cocktails to go, the TABC is encouraging restaurants to create “kits” that provide customers with what they need to make a drink, including the liquor, which must be in a sealed container no larger than 375 milliliters.
“You can’t just make a Jack and Coke in your bar, put it in a to-go cup and wrap it, and call that a manufacturer-sealed container,” said Geoffrey Bezuidenhout, general manager of Picnikins Patio Cafe and president of the San Antonio Restaurant Association, in a March 20 San Antonio Express-News article.
We’re glad. For one thing, we want to be sure we’re getting the full shot we’re paying for. Nor are we surprised. To allow pre-made drinks in to-go cups would violate the state’s open container law, one we don’t necessarily agree with as long the container belongs to a passenger, but one that nonetheless has not been waived.
But that law and the current waiver do raise questions for us about the legality of a recent spate of drive-thru frozen daiquiri stores across the state, two of which operate in neighboring Nacogdoches.
The biggest question of all, however, is whether relaxing some alcohol regulations to help the restaurant industry will cause all hell to break loose among citizens of the state. And if it doesn’t, as we suspect it won’t, then maybe it’s time for a long, hard look at what other TABC rules could be permanently relaxed in the future.