The novel coronavirus that emerged in the spring of 2020 has persisted, causing an increase in cases of the COVID-19 upper-respiratory tract disease. As a full-blown pandemic, it continues to spread and wreak havoc on the way of life of people all over the world. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has attempted to mitigate the negative economic impact of the disease at the federal level and the state level. One of the hardest-hit sectors of the economy is the hospitality industry, which includes restaurants and bars. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has made moves to address this

On March 18, 2020, Governor Abbott signed a temporary waiver allowing restaurants to deliver certain manufacturer-sealed alcoholic beverages with food purchases to customers, in response to the financial hardship caused for them when they were forced to close their dining areas due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the alcohol-to-go waiver originally was set to expire on May 1, the Governor indefinitely extended it. (Why? Well, it seems that city mayors have communicated to the Governor that the uptick in Texas COVID-19 cases has been mainly among young adults. And health experts have confirmed that data, suggesting that the higher rate of infection among young people is likely because those individuals generally have not taken social distancing measures seriously, choosing to congregate in close quarters during Abbott’s trial reopening of bars in the state—even though reduced capacity was mandated.)

Governor Abbott’s original waiver for restaurants to sell alcohol to-go and subsequent extensions and additional orders have opened the door wide to the possibility of new legislation related to Texas alcohol sales that would affect restaurants, bars, and other purveyors of alcoholic beverages in the future. In fact, State Rep. Tan Parker, R of Flower Mound, Texas has said he plans to file a bill about this in January 2021, when the next state legislative session is scheduled.

Many others also are waiting to see new Texas alcohol laws, including supporters like the Texas Restaurant Association, a state advocacy group that favors and is lobbying for the permanent expansion of alcohol to-go in response to the financial struggle Texas restaurants are facing. Some are less convinced it is a good idea to permanently allow to-go alcohol sales in Texas, though. Texas Package Stores Association (TSPA) spokeswoman Jennifer Stevens stated on behalf of the TPSA that, while the organization understands the response in light of the pandemic and plans to offer input to legislators who will be discussing the issue in the upcoming legislative session, the TPSA worries that expansion of current alcohol to-go legislation and waivers could make it more difficult to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking in Texas. Further, Stevens’ statement also cautioned against the relaxation of open container laws in the state. It seems the TPSA believes that it behooves the Governor and legislators to ramp up efforts to educate the public about the dangers of drinking and driving and to clarify and shine a light on related legal statutes (such as Texas open container laws). Time will tell if Texas will pass legislation making sales of alcohol to-go permanent.

The team of competent, experienced attorneys at Jarvis, Garcia, & Erskine Law handles a wide range of legal issues, including alcohol-related cases. You can learn more about new Texas alcohol laws and how they might apply to you from skilled lawyers at JGE during a free consultation. Contact Jarvis, Garcia, & Erskine Law to speak with a professional about your legal needs.