AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission released a new set of guidelines allowing certain businesses permission to temporarily modify their current licensed premises to expand the area it covers.
Breweries took that as an opportunity to discount their patios and have consumers drink their beer-to-go there, but recent clarifications show that's not what the TABC meant.
“We had to close for today, again, like we have been for the last month,” said Bryan Winslow, Head Brewer at Saint Elmo Brewing Company.
Late Wednesday night, the TABC released an update to the previous guidelines, clearing up any misunderstanding for Texas brewers or bar owners.
“TABC sent out a memo informing everyone that the exception or loophole that we thought we were able to operate under to allow people to sit in our patio was no longer acceptable,” said Winslow.
An excerpt of the guidelines read as follows:
“Example: If a restaurant, bar, or similar establishment (including a tasting room at a brewery, distillery, or winery) has alcohol sales that are 51% or more of its total sales, it is classified as a bar and may not allow customers on-site under Executive Order GA28. If the business submits a TMLP form to un-license certain areas of the bar or premises, such as a backyard or patio, this does not change the business’s status as a bar under the executive order. While these businesses may still conduct alcohol sales for customer pickup and delivery (if they are authorized to do so under the law), customers cannot pick up their orders and consume them at the establishment — regardless of whether certain parts of the establishment are no longer considered part of the licensed premises as a result of submitting a TMLP. If a bar allows customers to congregate and consume alcoholic beverages in an area of the establishment that is not covered by a TABC license or permit, this still violates Executive Order GA-28’s prohibition on customers visiting the business.”
Because of this update, Winslow is being forced to shut down his brewery patio for a third time.
“Our entire livelihood, the bread and butter of this business, and all of our distribution bars is hinged on people sitting and consuming draught beer and so that basically shuts down our entire business,” said Winslow.
Winslow is not the only brewer who is frustrated.
“So many of us have been abiding by the rules, and to have it ripped out from underneath us without any clear cut logic behind it,” said Mark Phillippe, founder of Hi Sign Brewery.
Phillippe says he’s tired of getting mixed messages and, to him, unfair guidelines.
“It makes zero sense to allow restaurants to open, regardless of their square footage, but based on an arbitrary metric of how much alcohol or food they sell, at the end of the day, isn't it about people getting together in a closed space?” he said.
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That's why Phillippe says he is taking matters into his own hands to stay afloat.
“So what we're going to do is, we're open. We've sublet this property outback, it's perfectly legal to do so, and we can sell beer to go. You can go on to our website, order our beer, come and pick it up, and then instead of getting in your car and driving home, you can just enjoy it out back here. We've got plenty of wide-open space,” said Phillippe.
Brewers are calling on fans of breweries to use the hashtag SaveTexasBreweries to get Gov. Greg Abbott to change his current order. To find out more and how you can be a part of it, click here.
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