AUSTIN, Texas - New guidelines issued by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will give some bars, breweries and wineries a chance to qualify as a restaurant while bars are shut down.
Except for a few weeks in June, bars in Austin have been boarded up and empty for the past four months.
“All we want to do is get back to earning a living,” said Austin Talley, director of operations at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Icehouse.
Meanwhile, restaurants are able to fill up to 50 percent of their dining rooms and patios with customers and serve alcoholic beverages, as long as alcohol sales total less than 51 percent of their revenue.
“I think many of my colleagues have argued this, that there's only one thing that's different between us and a restaurant, and that's 1 percent. 1 percent of revenue sales,” Talley said.
Now, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will provide bar owners a new option to start serving people again as long as they meet certain requirements.
“So what this guidance does is, for those bars or restaurants who have the kitchen facilities and have the alcohol sales that make them eligible, they can essentially come to TABC and report their sales figures in a way that allows them to operate as restaurants,” said Chris Porter, spokesperson for TABC.
“I think anything in the direction of trying to conduct normal business is a positive step,” Talley said.
Bar owners have two options to apply for the new status. They can document alcohol sales, food sales and merchandise sales based on gross receipts since April 1 by filling out an affidavit.
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“And if that number shows that they are selling less than 51% of their business as alcohol for on premise consumption, then they can reclassify and operate as a restaurant,” said Porter.
They can also apply for a food and beverage certificate if they've added kitchen capacity or a permanent food truck and can show projected on-premise alcohol sales will equal less than 51 percent of revenue.
“However, we do want to make sure people know that simply applying for the permit does not automatically grant you approval, you need to make sure you hear from TABC before you begin operating as a restaurant, so we can make sure that everything stays legal and aboveboard,” Porter said.
The owners at Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Icehouse said they'd already been planning to open a kitchen on-site, but because of the shutdown orders they sped up that process and hope to finish building next week.
“We will have a food kitchen on-site, on-premise, within the boundaries of our property and we will be conducting ourselves as a food and beverage establishment under our license,” said Talley.
TABC encourages bar owners to reach out to their office or check their website to get questions answered.
For more information of the new guidelines, click here.
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