TABC Urges ‘Bars' Not to Reopen to Dine-In Services on Friday

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As many restaurants gear up to offer dine-in service at 25% listed capacity in Texas beginning Friday, there is concern that those that sell food but are labeled ‘bars’ by the state because of their alcohol sales will also open, violating the governor’s executive order.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission tells NBC 5 ‘TABC is aware that several locations have made plans to re-open despite current guidance from the Governor and state health authorities requiring them to remain closed. While we understand the difficulties facing these businesses, we strongly encourage them remain closed for now. Complying with these critical safety measures now will enable all businesses to open more quickly, hopefully as soon as mid-May.’

White Rock Alehouse and Brewery in Lakewood continues to dish out burgers and brew to go.

Owners Greg Nixon and Dave Kirk are eagerly awaiting Friday to welcome up to 90 guests inside and out in their patio areas.

“We want to make sure our guests know that we are doing everything we can to protect them and protect ourselves,” said Nixon.

Nixon and Kirk said they believe they are allowed to reopen based on their permits (mix beverage, brewing and food and beverage) and especially because their alcohol sales are less than 51%, the threshold to distinguish between restaurants and bars in the state.

“We should be good all around,” said Kirk. “But it is confusing for sure.”

Kirk is asking for clarity for them and other business owners.

“More feedback from the city would be great,” he said. “The micro-breweries our friends are not sure if they can open their tap rooms.”

Dallas City Council Member Adam Bazaldua said constituents have reached out reporting bars are planning to open dine-in services.

Bazaldua’s message: remain closed for now.

“Your time is coming,” he said.

Bazaldua said he confirmed rules distinguishing bars from restaurants with the city and found: a business that derives 51% or more of its income from the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption and holds the following TABC permits or licenses to post ‘51% signs’ required by the TABC may not operate as a ‘reopened service’ under the governor’s order: Chapter 25 Wine and Beer Retailer’s Permit BG/V/Y), Chapter 28 Mixed Beverage Permit (MB/RM), Chapter 32 Private Club Registration Permit (N), Chapter 69 Retail Dealer’s On-Premises License (BE), Chapter 74 Brewpub License (BP).

TABC said agents will be working with local law enforcement to respond to reports of any businesses violating the order. Violators will be allowed to comply without penalty, according to TABC.

Formal action will only be taken if violations continue, the commission says.

“The enforcement will be to make sure that the establishments that are continuing dine-in services are actually restaurants and not bars,” said Bazaldua.

In Deep Ellum, BrainDead Brewing reports $500,000 in losses.

Although the establishment has the ‘51% alcohol sales’ sign posted like a traditional bar is required to post, co-owner Sam Wynne said based on their permits as a brewery they too could reopen to dine-in services on Friday, but they won’t risk it.

“I’m not confused because we’re staying out of the way,” said Wynne of the executive order. “We think that there’s going to be a lot of people making a lot of mistakes this weekend and there’s miscommunication between the government and enforcement agency of the alcohol commission.”

Wynne said they likely won’t clear their patio area if a few customers order food or drinks but will not allow customers inside their building.

Wynne worries about penalties handed down to businesses that mistakenly re-open too early.

“We’re going to stick with to-go sales and try to stick with the current plan and the current model that we have established for shelter in place and watch everybody make a bunch of mistakes this weekend and hopefully we can learn from theirs instead of making our own.”

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