HOUSTON - Alcohol-to-go is one step closer to becoming permanent in Texas. On Wednesday, the Texas House gave its initial approval. The bill will need another vote before heading to the Senate for final approval.
When COVID-19 restrictions forced businesses to shut down temporarily, thousands of restaurants and bars didn’t survive.
Melissa Stewart, executive director of the Texas Restaurant Association in Houston, said the alcohol-to-go measure has been a saving grace for the industry.
"When we were forced to go strictly to delivery and curbside pick-up, that was a lot of money being left on the table, not only for the restaurants, but also for the suppliers," Stewart said.
"For a lot of these restaurants, it’s a significant part of their income. It can be up to 50%," Stewart continued.
Last June, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a waiver to allow restaurants and bars to include alcoholic drinks including wine, beer, and mixed liquor drinks in pick-up and delivery orders.
The measure was so loved by Texans, a Fort Worth lawmaker filed a bill to make it permanent.
"Ideally, it would be that it would stay covered and closed but the thing is, will it really?" said Jeanette Einkauf, a volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Einkauf worries about the expanded alcohol access and the temptation it would offer drivers and minors. Nearly 40 years ago, two of her family members were killed by a drunk driver.
"It was my sister-in-law, her and her husband were both killed by a drunk driver. In 1980 and it still is fresh as if it happened yesterday. It’s always there and it’s preventable, that’s the thing about it," Einkauf said.
House Bill 1024 addresses these concerns in its proposal stating that alcoholic drinks to-go must be placed in a "tamper-proof container", meaning it’s obvious when the seal or bag has been opened.
The bill also bans anyone who picks up or delivers the to-go-alcohol from transporting it in the passenger area of a car.
Historically, Texas is strict when it comes to alcohol; for example, banning liquor stores from selling on Sundays, as well as limiting the hours and how much consumers can purchase.
Law enforcement investigators FOX 26 reached out to said alcohol-to-go did not specifically raise any concerns for them through the pandemic, but said they’re going to keep a close eye on that as it inches closer to reality.