Over a year after Gov. Greg Abbott allowed Texas restaurants to sell booze-to-go with takeout and delivery food orders, a new law signed by Abbott Wednesday made that temporary pandemic-inspired change the permanent law of the land.
Much to the delight of Texan restaurateurs (and state alcohol aficionados who’d rather not leave the house to enjoy a tasty cocktail), House Bill 1024 went into effect immediately Wednesday as soon as Abbott signed the legislation, since the bill won an over two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of the Texas Legislature.
“Today is a great day for Texas restaurants, as well as for their customers,” Abbott said Wednesday just before signing HB 1024.
Abbott waived the state regulations that blocked restaurants from selling booze for off-site consumption in March 2020, a move he made to give restaurants whose bottom lines were hurting due to pandemic-induced shutdowns and occupancy restrictions an extra source of revenue. His original waiver didn’t include pre-mixed cocktails, but Abbott added mixed beverages to the approved to-go drink list with a new executive order in June.
Alcohol-to-go quickly became popular with Texans during the early months of the pandemic; A May 2020 survey from the National Restaurant Association found that 81 percent of Texans wanted alcohol-to-go to become a permanent part of the Texas takeout and delivery experience.
Abbott and state lawmakers clearly got the memo. “It turned out that Texans liked it so much, the Texas Legislature wanted to make that permanent law in the state of Texas,” Abbott said at the bill signing ceremony.
Authored by Republican state Rep. Charlie Geren and Republican state Sen. Kelly Hancock, HB 1024 allows all Texas restaurants to sell beer, wine and cocktails to-go via pickup or delivery as long as they’re accompanied by some kind of food, if the restaurant has an alcohol sales license from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
The law also requires that drinks sold to-go must either be in their original, manufacturer-sealed containers, or in tamper-proof containers labeled with the restaurant’s name and the words “alcoholic beverage” visible.
Emily Williams Knight, President and CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association, celebrated the law’s signing in a statement Wednesday, which was a key priority for the state’s biggest restaurant trade group going into the 2021 legislative session.
“The Texas Restaurant Association and our members applaud Gov. Abbott and the Texas Legislature for fast-tracking HB 1024 to ensure restaurants maintain their ability to sell alcohol to-go,” Knight said. “Gov. Abbott’s emergency waiver allowing alcohol to-go during the pandemic saved thousands of restaurant jobs, creating a new revenue stream and unleashing the innovation that restaurants will need to rebuild from the pandemic.
“We still have a long road to recovery ahead,” Knight continued, “but with tools like alcohol to-go, the restaurant industry’s future is brighter than ever in Texas.”