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Alcohol regulators relax rules to allow more Texas bars to reopen as restaurants

Texas bars
Getty Images via CNN
People stand outside bars on Sixth Street at night in downtown Austin, Texas, before they had to close.

AUSTIN, Texas – A new amendment approved this week by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is opening a new path for bars to reopen as restaurants, according to ABC affiliate KSAT.

The amendment to Rule 33.5 will allow bars to more easily qualify for a food and beverage certificate by removing certain requirements that make obtaining the certificate difficult.

Commercial cooking equipment is no longer required and the sale of commercially pre-packaged items from a fellow business, or a food truck on the property, will be accepted as a way for an establishment to obtain the now-coveted 51% food revenue classification.

Texas bars were closed in mid-March, allowed to reopen at 25% capacity on May 22, got the go-ahead to increase capacity to 50% on June 3, and then on June 26, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order to re-close all bars with roughly 3 hours notice.

In late July, however, TABC guidelines allowed bars with full kitchens to apply for a food and beverage certificate or submit an alcohol sales reporting affidavit in an effort to prove they can generate more than 51% of sales from food and merchandise which would allow them to reopen.

The amendment also removed the requirement that an establishment had to have a “prominence of food items on the menu as compared to alcoholic beverages.”

“Many establishments that would have otherwise remained shuttered will be able to reopen and operate in a safe manner due to these amendments,” the statement reads in part. “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.”

The amendment states that TABC “may adopt an emergency rule without prior notice or hearing upon finding that imminent peril to the public health, safety, or welfare requires adoption on fewer than 30 days’ notice. Emergency rules adopted under Government Code §2001.034 may be effective for not longer than 120 days and may be renewed for not longer than 60 days.”

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