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TABC pursues permanent loosening of food & beverage rules in Texas

TABC pursues permanent loosening of food & beverage rules in Texas

FM Kitchen bloody mary bar
Does that celery count as a meal? Courtesy of FM Kitchen & Bar

The Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission extended a loosening of requirements to help bars during the coronavirus, with a plan to make that loosening permanent in 2021.

At its December 15 meeting, the TABC approved an extension of an emergency amendment allowing bars to qualify for a food & beverage certificate more easily by removing some of the restrictions.

Those include:

  • Removing the requirement to invest in expensive equipment.
  • Removing the requirement that food be prepared at the location; food service is enough.

The new extension runs until February 20, 2021. Applicants still need to comply with all of the governor's applicable executive orders and all minimum standard health protocols.

The emergency amendment was first enacted in August. It allowed bars to reopen and operate; now they can continue doing so.

Bar owners still must apply for a Food & Beverage Permit. TABC's loosened restrictions don't impact what's happening within individual cities, who sign off on new certificates of occupancy that go along with these changes.

The commission also took the first step toward making these changes permanent, by voting to publish the Rule 33.5 emergency amendments in the Texas Register. It'll go through a public comment phase, and then the TABC can take the next step, says spokesman Chris Porter.

"The commission directed staff to begin the process of publishing a new rule that would make change permanent, probably early next year," he says.

"Up to perhaps three-fourths of businesses might be forced to close if there weren't some sort of amendment to make it easier to operate as restaurants, so this just removes the cost and equipment burden while ensuring they can meet health and safety standards," Porter says. "Back in the days prior to the pandemic, there wasn't much of a demand for bars to convert. But for the growing number of businesses wanting to operate as restaurant, this is a way to assist those businesses."