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Gov. Abbott extends waiver allowing restaurants and bars to sell mixed drinks to-go

The Texas Restaurant Association says it's hopeful the extended waiver will help businesses in the foodservice industry during this time.

One day after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order that required bars to close, he approved a waiver that expands the sales of alcoholic drinks to-go. 

The waiver allows restaurants and certain bars with a Mixed Beverage Permit to sell mixed drinks to-go, as well as for delivery. Under the new waiver, businesses can sell drinks containing distilled spirits as long as they are mixed and sealed by the business itself with the business’ name on the container.

The Texas Restaurant Association says it's hopeful the extended waiver will help businesses in the foodservice industry during this time.

"With restaurants employing more than 1.3 million Texans and representing 51% of the food dollar, we simply cannot afford to let these critical businesses close for good," said Emily Williams Knight, President and CEO of the TRA.

Abbott originally signed a waiver March 18 allowing to-go alcohol sales, in an effort to support struggling restaurants after they closed their dining areas because of the pandemic. 

Bars had only reopened in late May after being shut down in March. On Friday, they were ordered to close until further notice in efforts of slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Under Abbott's expanded waiver, restaurants are allowed to sell mixed beverages with take-out and delivery food orders with the following safety parameters:

  • The restaurant must mix the drink onsite, combining distilled spirits with other beverages and/or garnishes.
  • The restaurant must seal the mixed drink onsite with tape or an adhesive label that states the name of the restaurant and “alcoholic beverage.” The sealed mixed drink must then be placed in a bag that is sealed with a zip tie.
  • Mixed drinks cannot be transported in the passenger area of a vehicle.

"Today’s announcement is an important step forward, giving many hope, and so we’re very grateful to Governor Abbott and our partners in the distilled spirits business for working with us to get restaurants some of the critical relief they need," said Knight. 

WFAA spoke to a Fort Worth bar owner on Friday who described another shutdown of bars as a nightmare. 

"I was like, holy cow, this really is real. It's a pure nightmare. I can't even describe it," Emil Bragdon said of the news. "In a matter of minutes, my entire staff has no job." 

During an interview Friday, Abbott said in hindsight he should have delayed the reopening of bars.

"Listen, bars are one of those types of settings that are not made for a pandemic. Bars invites people to gather together, to drink, and to have conversations and things like that. And that is the opposite of the type of practices that are needed to slow the spread of the coronavirus."

Restaurants are allowed to remain open but must scale back to 50% dine-in occupancy beginning Monday. 

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is reminding residents that it's a criminal offense to knowingly possess an open container in a passenger area of a motor vehicle.

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