TABC Issues Temporary Waiver of Alcohol Delivery Restrictions Amid COVID-19

Ashley Storm Ruleman
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Following Governor Greg Abbott’s disaster declaration and direction to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) to give restaurants relief amid the coronavirus outbreak, the TABC issued guidance late yesterday regarding the temporary expansion of alcohol delivery authority for many restaurants.

Nothing can completely counteract the devastating effects of having to close our state’s restaurants to dine-in service. Gov. Abbott’s move, however, to loosen restrictions on alcohol delivery gives at least some opportunity for restaurants to expand sales amid the severe restrictions on sales. For that, we are so thankful!

TABC Guidance

The TABC website has thoroughly addressed what restaurants can and cannot do during this temporary waiver. First, they have created this easy-to-read chart. If you saw this chart a couple of days ago, check back again. It was updated yesterday, Thursday, March 19, in the afternoon. 

Want more details? TABC has drafted this industry notice, also made available late yesterday. This notice answers almost all of the questions that we are getting from our restaurant clients.

Top Questions About Restaurant Guidelines During COVID-19

Again, the TABC Guidance is incredibly helpful. For your convenience, however, here are some answers to the questions we are getting from clients and seeing on social media. 

Can restaurants really sell alcohol as part of a carry-out order or curbside delivery?

Yes! As long as you offer “permanent food service,” sell the alcohol along with food, don’t hold a private club permit, and make sure you only sell drinks in the containers sealed by the manufacturer. The industry notice gives a good description of the dos and don’ts. 

Can restaurants sell margaritas to-go?

Sadly, no. There was confusion initially, and many restaurants did start offering mixed drinks to-go. The TABC, however, made it clear that this is not permissible. The alcoholic beverages sold to-go or for parking lot or other form of delivery must be in the original container sealed by the manufacturer. Distilled spirits are included in this but also must be sold in single-serving containers not larger than 375ml (or about 12 ounces).

Is there a limit to how much alcohol I can sell in one order?

No. The TABC explicitly states that there is no required food-to-alcohol ratio. In other words, as long as the sale is made with a food order of food prepared at your premises, there is no food-to-alcohol ration that you must maintain in a particular order. Note, however, that the overall ratio required by your food and beverage certificate probably still applies. Don’t forget, however, it is still illegal to sell alcohol to minors and intoxicated persons. Make sure your process ensures that these public safety requirements are followed.

How We Can Help

Free Services Available

We at Martin Powers & Counsel have been so inspired by the incredible generosity of so many in our community. THANK YOU to every single person committed to pulling together and lending a helping hand to others. One small way we can help is by offering services to affected restaurants free of charge. Beginning today, Ashley and Claire, are committing to dedicate a large portion of our time to providing free services to TABC permit holders until we are at capacity. Once we are at capacity, we will start a waitlist. We will continue to offer this assistance as long as the difficult circumstances continue and as long as we are able.

Free Resources and Information

In the coming days, we will be posting as much free information and as many resources as possible. This information will be targeted to address questions that Texas restaurants might be facing in the coming days and weeks and months. Did you know that you can suspend your TABC license for a time? Did you also know that you can later transfer that permit to a new location? Did you know that in the unfortunate event you have to completely close your doors, you have the ability to sell your inventory of alcoholic beverages? There is a lot of information to consider in making difficult decisions about your restaurants. Even if we are unable to visit one-on-one, our hope is that making more and more information available will help our Texas restaurants.

Photo credit: Eiliv-Sonas Aceron on Unsplash

About the Author. Ashley Storm Ruleman is an experienced legal counselor serving two diverse but often overlapping industries: the real estate development/construction industry and the alcoholic beverage industry. Before entering private practice, Ashley served as in-house counsel to a family of companies involved in real estate development, construction and management and was Assistant General Counsel to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). She now advises bars, restaurants, golf courses, and other clients regarding appropriate business structures, contracts, and real estate transactions that comply with the rules and policies created by the TABC and other applicable Texas laws. For more information, contact her at Ashley@MartinPowers.com.

About Martin Powers & Counsel, PLLC. Dallas-based Martin Powers & Counsel, PLLC is a boutique business law firm dedicated to providing personalized and strategic legal services for businesses of every size. The firm is home to experienced attorneys with expertise in business disputes, bankruptcy and creditors’ rights, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) compliance, labor and employment law, real estate transactions, landlord/tenant disputes, contract negotiations, general counsel services, and other areas at the intersection of business and law.