Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill Wednesday allowing customers to purchase sealed alcoholic drinks to-go from businesses across the state.
In March 2020, Abbott issued a waiver allowing the sale and delivery of to-go alcoholic beverages with a take-out meal in an effort to help the restaurant industry, which had been hard-hit in the COVID-19 pandemic.
"... To help restaurants be able to better deal with the pandemic, we waived the regulation to allow restaurants to sell alcohol to-go," Abbott said in a video posted to Twitter announcing the bill signing. "Well, it turned out that Texas liked it so much that the Texas Legislature wanted to make that permanent law in the state of Texas."
The bill, which was authored by Rep. Charlie Geren and Sen. Kelly Hancock, included a provision that required beverages be in either a manufacturer-sealed container or container closed with a zip tie or other similar method and the business' name.
The changes apply to mixed beverage and private club permittees and will allow those businesses to permit customers to pick up alcohol with food orders. The pickup of beer and ale will also be allowed beginning Sept. 1, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Alcohol delivery will also be allowed with food orders and permitted third parties can also make those deliveries on the restaurant's behalf.
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“This new law will help businesses keep their doors open and ensure Texans keep their jobs,” said TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles in a written statement. “TABC is grateful to Governor Abbott and members of the Texas Legislature for their leadership on this critically important measure. And a big thank you goes out to the efforts of alcohol retailers who have been safely and responsibly selling alcohol to go under last year’s waiver.”
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) is charged with education and enforcement of the new law.
The agency’s spokesman said TABC did not register a large number of violations last year when alcohol-to-go and delivery was first allowed in an effort to help struggling businesses.
“What we found was most of the industry that they were able to comply with the rules,” said Chris Porter.
There are several rules establishments must meet:
Alcohol-to-go and delivery orders must include an food order, even a small order.
It must be in a sealed, tamper proof container or one with a zip tie and have the business’s name on the container.
As with any such purchase, businesses are responsible for ensuring customers are at least 21 years of age and are not already intoxicated.
The TABC says educating the public and ensuring establishments understand the rules will be key in the law’s continued success.
“I think the record over the last several months when the temporary provisions were in place shows that businesses do take the rules seriously and they take safety seriously,” said Porter.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving or M.A.D.D. of Texas says compliance will come down to education, ensuring people don’t stay behind the wheel and drink.
“That’s always a concern that the numbers of alcohol violations could increase and of course drunk driving,” said M.A.D.D. state program director Debra Marable. “Not drinking and driving is the first step. It’s 100% preventable and it’s one of those things that you need to think about it before you do it.”