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TABC Just Passed Emergency Amendments Clearing a Wider Path for Bars to Reopen

With more than 200 people on the call, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission held an emergency Zoom webinar at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to pass three amendments to regulations that clear a path for bars to reopen under Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency order restricting their operations during the pandemic.

TABC presiding officer Kevin Lilly and commissioners Jason Boatright of Dallas, Hasan Mack of Austin and Deborah Gray Marino of San Antonio approved the emergency amendments.

Historically, TABC rules required that restaurants licensed to serve alcohol use commercial-grade cooking equipment and prepare the food on-site. To qualify as a restaurant and be allowed to reopen with limited capacity under the governor’s order, a business also had to earn at least 51 percent of its revenue from food sales. Bars were closed, but some recently began expanding kitchens and food service to shift their sales percentages and qualify to reopen as restaurants.  But that was too expensive or otherwise impractical for many bar owners.

The amendments approved Tuesday eliminate the requirement for commercial-grade cooking equipment, allow premade food brought in from other locations and permit beverage license holders to partner with food trucks and count those sales toward the 51% minimum.

Bars seeking to make the change will not need to supply floor plans of the areas devoted “primarily” to food service or redo menus to emphasize food over drinks.

These amendments will also help food trucks and vendors that worked with them.

Recently, we wrote about Scott Hagarbome who ran Smokin’ Joes Hot Dog carts that often catered to late-night crowds, but has essentially been shut down since March since bars shuttered.

“I’m pretty overwhelmed with gratitude,” Hagarbome said after the news broke. “I knew deep down inside that they would come to a solution that would help the bars and clubs and all the people involved. This won’t help all the bars and clubs, and that’s sad to think about. But it’s a good start.”

Michelle Honea of The Grapevine has to work through the details; drink prices to food prices are still a tricky calculation, but they’re looking into it.

“If there is a way for us to open, we will,” Honea said.

Michael Peticolas of Peticolas Brewing is eager.

“I need to open,” Peticolas said. “It sounds like common sense is prevailing. I’ll need to put pen to paper, but this is good news.”

TABC’s spokesperson, Chris Porter, that the amended rules are effective today. We’ve reached out to the TABC spokesperson on when these rules will go into effect and we’ll report as soon as we get an update.

UPDATE: Porter says the amended rules are effective today.