Friday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott snatched up the welcome mat to bars, which were ordered to close at noon that day as more COVID-19 cases surged across the state. Also, restaurants were required to go back to 50% capacity, down from the 75% at which they had been operating.
However, the state of Texas has thrown another lifeline to the industry as it struggles to stay afloat by extending the waiver for alcohol to-go.
Previously, restaurants were only allowed to sell adult beverages in containers sealed by the manufacturer. So if you ordered a margarita from a restaurant to take home, the mix was poured into a container and a sealed bottle of tequila was packaged with it.
The Texas Restaurant Association recently petitioned the state to expand that policy by allowing places to sell to-go drinks already shaken or stirred.
Beto and Son at Trinity Groves is known for their liquid nitrogen margaritas but have been unable to sell them.
“The [alcohol to-go] kits were a huge hit for our guests and we have sold hundreds since the shutdown," co-owner and chef Julian Rodarte says. "But now we can sell our signature liquid nitrogen margarita to-go, which is a game-changer for us. It is by far our most requested cocktail, and now we won’t have to tell our guests no anymore. It’s absolutely a big deal, and we could not be more happy with the decision."
Mi Dia From Scratch bar manager Ryan Huntley says that so far, mixed drinks to-go have had a positive impact on business.
“The feedback from the community on the to-go program has been nothing short of spectacular, and the ability to push alcohol sales has increased our potentials in this category tremendously.”
It has also allowed the restaurant to retain more staff.
“We are very grateful for the opportunities gifted to us that allow us to keep our people employed and our doors open,” Huntley says.
Mexican Sugar brand leader John Herrera echoes those sentiments. Margaritas are a big part of their identity.
"Being able to sell them to-go is a huge benefit to our business,” Herrera says.
But buyers beware: Customers are not supposed to transport the mixed beverages in the passenger area of their vehicle. Also, to purchase a drink to-go, an order must include food.
From the Texas Restaurant Association's site:
• The restaurant must mix the drink onsite, combining distilled spirits with other beverages and/or garnishes.
• The restaurant must seal the mixed drink onsite with tape or an adhesive label that states the name of the restaurant and “alcoholic beverage.” The sealed mixed drink must then be placed in a bag that is sealed with a zip tie.
• Mixed drinks cannot be transported in the passenger area of a vehicle.
In other news, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sent out a bevy of news releases last weekend detailing bars they found out of compliance with the capacity requirements (and now they're all shut down again. Connecting any dots here?).
The TABC issued a new statement Saturday, explaining that on Friday evening, their agents visited 682 bars across Texas and found 30 that were open in violation of the governor’s executive order, which mandated they close by noon.
Most bars were compliant with shutting down after agents spoke to owners. However, "two remained open, defying the governor's executive order. TABC issued an emergency order to suspend the liquor permits of those bars for 30 days."
The two bars were The Whiskey Girl in Abilene and Outlaws in Longview.
Not holding their cards too closely to their vest, on Friday at 2:07 p.m., The Whiskey Girl posted their plans on Facebook to open at 4 p.m. despite the mandate:
“Just like before our heart is not to be disrespectful but, we have to look out for our team and our business! Unless someone else is offering to pay our bills ???? #GovAbbottForSugarDaddy As always if you don’t feel well, please stay home. Happy Hour 6-8, $1 Wells and Free Pool! See y’all later!"
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At a buck each, that's a lot of well drinks to pay rent and meet payroll.
Subsequently, on Saturday they posted that after consulting their lawyer, they are going to comply with Abbott's orders for now (they didn't mention having their liquor license suspended for 30 days):
"We will continue to look for and explore our options to get us back up and running. We will not be open today but we look forward to seeing you all again very soon!”
And this is why we can't have nice things.