Bills Keeping Cocktails To-Go from Texas Restaurants Winning Broad Support

Margaritas to go could be here to stay. Cheers!
Margaritas to go could be here to stay. Cheers! courtesy Rusty Taco
Very few positive things have come out of the past 12 months. Some hard lessons have been learned. Perhaps a few new hygiene habits could help us all stay healthier in the long run, which is certainly not a bad thing.

But there was one sparkly item highlight on the reel that did help spread a bit of cheer: being able to order alcoholic beverages to-go along with dinner (or lunch, it's been a hard year). Bills filed in the Legislature to allow to-go booze after the pandemic ends are drawing bipartisan support, including from Gov. Greg Abbott

Chief Revenue and Innovation Officer Anna Tauzin with the Texas Restaurant Association, who is lobbying for these bills, feels confident the measure will become law this session. In a recent meeting with  Abbott, Tauzin said he too was excited about the measure.

On April 28, Abbott hinted of his support on Twitter, extending the clause beyond its initial run and showing support for a legislative measure: “Alcohol-to-go sales can continue after May 1. From what I hear from Texans, we may just let this keep on going forever. #txlege.”

When restaurants and bars collectively shut down last March, a mild panic set in. Careers, businesses, the ability to pay bills were also closed off. Knowing how lucrative liquor sales are for restaurants, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott allowed restaurants to sell sealed containers of alcohol for off-site consumption as part of his emergency declaration in response to the coronavirus. This was the first time Texans were all to partake in such a nefarious deed.

Almost immediately there was a buzz to keep this measure even after the pandemic passes. Last March, brand president of Rusty Taco Brendan Mauri said the financial benefit of being able to sell booze to-go allowed them to hire back employees who had been furloughed.

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The Great Escape to go from Las Almas Rotas
Susie Oszustowicz

Anastacia Quinones of José said being able to sell margaritas to customers who weren’t comfortable eating out was critical for them. And Shad Kvetko of Las Almas Rotas says it helped them tremendously on the days when we were all but shut down.

“As we saw from that experiment, society didn’t collapse when people were allowed to take a cocktail with them and, frankly, I’d be happy to see an end to all of the ‘blue laws’ for both on-premise and package stores," Kvetko says.

Bills have been filed in both the House and Senate to allow the “pickup and delivery of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption.”

State Sen. Kelly Hancock, whose District 9 includes parts of Dallas and Tarrant counties, introduced the bill on the Senate side. A companion bill has been introduced in the House by Rep. Charlie Geren. We will continue to track these bills as they progress through Austin.

In other booze news, Rep. Richard Raymond has introduced House Bill 937 to allow liquor stores to be open from noon to 10 p.m on Sundays. He introduced a similar bill in 2019 that didn't pass the House. 
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.