IRVING -- Some of the toughest alcohol-sales restrictions in North Texas were relaxed Thursday night after marathon city council sessions. But some are questioning the legality of the council's decision.
For about three decades, restaurant owners in Irving have had to walk a balance beam while running their business. No more than 40 percent of their sales could come from alcohol.
"Times have changed," said Kent Christiansen, co-owner of The Cellar Restaurant and Bar in Las Colinas. "People used to sell $2 beers. That's over. We have drinks that are $8 to $12 now. It's that simple."
He said it is impossible to stay below that 40 percent threshold without constantly raising food prices.
"Without change, we'll go out of business," he said, just before a council vote Thursday night.
There was also talk that the long-talked-about upscale development along Water Street and the hotel near the new convention center would be scrapped if some kind of revisions were not made.
For two hours, council members heard from residents and business owners. That was on the heels of a council meeting that went past midnight two weeks earlier.
Many residents talked about the negative impact selling more alcohol would have on the city. Several questioned what kind of businesses the change would attract.
"Gentleman's bars may creep in," said resident Bernadette Ward. "We need to keep Irving safe."
Several restaurant owners explained tweaking the law was not a threat to public safety.
"I am not telling you I want to sell more alcohol, I want to sell better alcohol," said Brian James, owner of Champs, a sports bar on Highway 114.
In a 7-to-2 vote, the Irving city council made a major change: In the Las Colinas area, 70 percent of restaurant sales will be allowed to come from alcohol, and across the rest if Irving, a 50 percent alcohol sales level will be allowed.
One council member voted no, fearing the legality of having different rules for different parts of the city.
The city attorney said it was legal, but restaurant owners at the meeting said they have heard owners outside the Las Colinas area may file legal action based in the decision.