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Alcohol-to-go bill heads to Senate

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The Texas economy took a major hit in 2020 when COVID-19 began impacting the area. In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, many safety measures were implemented including closing and limiting in-person dining at restaurants and the issuance of a statewide mask mandate.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a waiver in March 2020 allowing to-go-alcohol sales. The initial waiver was set to expire May 2020 but was extended indefinitely. What was initially supposed to only be temporary relief for the restaurant industry may now be signed into law as House Bill 1024 was introduced.

Gabby Goodman, one of three managers at The Western Steakhouse & Dancehall in Navasota, said to-go alcohol sales benefitted the restaurant during the pandemic. “We haven’t had a huge increase in alcohol sales, but it did help us when we were just able to offer to-go-orders,” explained Goodman.

HB 1024, filed by Republican state Rep. Charlie Geren, would allow beer, wine and mixed drinks to be included in food pickup and delivery orders and continue the revenue stream that was generated when the relief initially began last March. Geren is a restaurant owner in Fort Worth and HB 1024 is co-authored by Democrats.

Initial approval of the bill came Wednesday, and a formal approval by the Texas House, with a 144-1 vote in favor of HB 1024 was received Thursday, March 25. The next step is for legislation to head to the Senate, where a version of the measure must still be approved by a committee before it can be considered by the full chamber.

Abbott lifted COVID-19 restrictions including the statewide mask mandate and limits on business occupancy Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

The Western has reopened to the public for in-person dining, but Goodman said she, as well as the entire staff at The Western, are in favor of HB 1024. “I think it has been good for us. Since we are a bar and a restaurant, alcohol is a big source of our business that we use every day.” She also said customers are “super happy” that they are able to purchase drinks to-go along with their meal.

According to the Texas Restaurant Association, 700,000 restaurant employees in Texas lost their jobs in the early days of the pandemic, and thousands of Texas restaurants have closed.

If HB 1024 passes the Senate, it would then be sent to Gov. Abbotts Desk to be signed into law.