Bars with food trucks and other ways to sell and serve food—including food prepared off-site and sold on premises—will be able to get a permit to reopen under a new rule approved Tuesday during a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission emergency meeting.
"Without the option offered by this rule amendment, many of these establishments will be forced to close permanently within the next 30 days," the rule says.
The establishments must have places for patrons to sit and consume food, and must apply for a permit under the new guidelines in order to qualify.
The rules still require that gross sales on the premises be less than 51% alcohol, but it allows bars to make projections for future revenue instead of basing that on 2019 revenues, as before.
Until Tuesday, only establishments with permanent kitchens and on-site food preparations were allowed to open, either to-go or in-house. Bars with food trucks, vending machines, third-party vendors or no food at all have been closed since late June.
The TABC, the state's regulatory arm for all things alcohol, was not scheduled to meet until September, but called the emergency meeting after intense lobbying by bars and nightclubs across the state who have been shuttered for more than two months—while their counterparts in the restaurant industry have remained open.
Approved as an amendment to Rule 33.5 regarding food and beverage certificates, the TABC acknowledges that many of the bars—which opened briefly in May and were then shut down again in June when COVID numbers spiked in Texas—would close permanently before the fall if they couldn't open before that.
The rule does not automatically open these establishments but provides an easier mechanism for getting the proper permit.
"Many establishments that would have otherwise remained shuttered will be able to reopen and operate in a safe manner due to these amendments," the amendment says. "This result will not only help mitigate the economic crisis in the State of Texas resulting from the COVID-19 disaster, it will also protect the welfare of thousands of members of the regulated industry and their employees who rely upon the income from these establishments to support themselves and their families. Without the option offered by this rule amendment, many of these establishments will be forced to close permanently within the next 30 days."
TABC spokesperson Chris Porter said about 550 bars had been approved to operate as restaurants since Gov. Greg Abbott's June 26 order to shut them down, according to the Austin Business Journal.
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