Texas restaurants and bars that serve food — all of which are currently closed for dine-in service due to the COVID-19 pandemic — are now able to legally deliver and offer to-go alcohol, beer, and wine to customers.
The new policy, clarified by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), only applies to alcoholic drinks that are already in manufacturer-sealed containers (aka original containers) that are 375 milliliters or less. This means that restaurants cannot mix and seal their own cocktails and drinks on their own (though cocktail “kits” that include other ingredients — say, lemons or limes or nonalcoholic juices — with the approved alcoholic retail bottles are permissible). Importantly, the waiver also mandates that all booze deliveries must be accompanied by the purchase of food.
The temporary waiver was issued by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday, March 19, and applies to both Austin and Texas as a whole. Restaurants, breweries, and bars that already have wine and beer retailer permits were already able to sell to-go wine and beer before the issuing of this mandate.
This waiver is designed to help ease the major loss of a vital revenue stream, in light of the statewide mandate (preceded by city mandates in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and elsewhere) requiring restaurant dining rooms and bars close through April 3, in the effort to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus. The order allows restaurants to stay open for delivery and takeout service.
The new waiver applies to restaurants with mixed beverage permits (which would include bars that serve food) and went into effect as of Wednesday, March 18.
Austin bar Nickel City managed to get ahead of the game with daily liquor and food deliveries on Wednesday, with the approval of a TABC officer. (It has since announced that its delivery service will end after today, March 20.)
Gov. Abbott also mandated, per the new waiver, that the TABC temporarily allow restaurants and bars to sell back unopened alcoholic products, and that alcohol distributors and manufacturers can re-buy those products. This will allow restaurants and bars to get rid of excess stock they have at hand due to the cancellation of previously planned events and expectation of regular service.
Other cities across the country have issued similar regulations regarding the delivery of alcohol, including New York and Washington, D.C.
Update, Friday, March 20: This article includes clarifying details on what the waiver legally entails restaurants to deliver.