Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1024 into law on Wednesday, making it legal for Texas businesses to sell alcohol to-go indefinitely.
Abbott didn’t raise a glass to celebrate, but did give a wide grin as colleagues cheered the new law. It’s effective immediately.
The effort was designed to help struggling Texas restaurants recoup sales during the coronavirus pandemic. Selling alcohol for off-premise consumption — via pickup or delivery — afforded restaurants a new stream of revenue at a time when some had lost more than 50% of their business due to dining room shutdowns and, later, occupancy restrictions.
“We were at risk of losing all of our restaurants, in the beginning,” said Mariano Martinez, the entrepreneur who owns five Tex-Mex restaurants in North Texas and created the first frozen margarita machine. “We weren’t prepared [for the pandemic]. No one was.” He said being able to sell margaritas to-go at Mariano’s and La Hacienda Ranch offered a lifeline to his restaurants in 2020. “It did make a big, big difference,” he said.
Restaurateurs like Martinez had been selling alcohol to-go for more than a year, after Abbott filed a waiver in March 2020. It signaled the first time Texas business owners were allowed to sell alcohol for off-premise consumption. House Bill 1024 was passed by the Texas House in late March 2021 and by the Texas Senate in late April.
With Abbott’s signature on Wednesday, Texas’ alcohol to-go rules are permanent.
Charlie Geren, State Representative for Texas House District 99, called it a “tremendous win for our recovering restaurant and hospitality industry” on Twitter. The Fort Worth representative and four other lawmakers, two Republicans and two Democrats, were the primary sponsors of the bill. Martinez said alcohol sales — and specifically, margaritas — have “skyrocketed” in the past year.
The bill requires that alcoholic beverages, including mixed drinks, sold for off-premise consumption are placed in a tamper-proof container, which is meant to keep drivers and passengers from consuming their drinks on the road. Businesses selling alcohol to-go must have a food and beverage certificate, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
TABC also offers the Texas Responsible Alcohol Delivery Training course for drivers who will be delivering alcoholic beverages directly to consumers.
Austin restaurant El Arroyo — a place known for its cheeky marquee — changed its sign to say “Texas leads the way (with margaritas!)”