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TABC eases restrictions to allows bars to operate as restaurants during COVID closure



The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is making it easier for bars to operate as restaurants during the COVID-related closure.

According to a spokesperson for the TABC, Tuesday’s amendment made it easier for bars to show they have the food prep facility to be operational as restaurants.

“You can partner with an outside business such as a food truck or another service to have food provided on the premises,” said TABC spokesperson Chris Porter. “The only caveat is you have to ensure that your food sales outpace your alcohol sales.”

The Sockdolager Brewing Company in Abilene is one of thousands of bars struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Bars across the state were shut down in late June under an executive order issued by Governor Greg Abbott.

That same executive order allows restaurants to operate at 50-percent capacity and they’re allowed to sell alcohol that can be consumed there.

“Essentially, what you’re telling me is for some reason, food makes it safer,” said James Bridwell, owner of the Sockdolager Brewing Company. “It makes no sense.“

Bridwell said merchandise and brew to-go sales have helped pay the bills.

As for how much money the brewery has lost because of the pandemic, Bridwell can’t even name a dollar amount.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” Bridwell said, laughing.

The TABC said they’ve been trying to help bar owners like Bridwell change their business models so they can operate as a restaurant since June.

“In most cases that involve showing the TABC that your alcohol sales are below a 51% threshold through gross revenue, in addition to having a commercial grade food preparation facilities on the premises,” said Porter.

Bridwell is grateful the TABC is loosening their guidelines to help business owners like him, but told KTXS he never planned to become a restaurant owner.

“Our business plan never included food,” said Bridwell. “We’re not chefs, we don’t know how to do that.”

Bridwell said he plans to apply for the TABC’s permit so he can open up and have customers enjoy their brews at the brewery.

“At the end of the day, all we’re asking for is an equal opportunity to open up responsibly and keep our businesses alive,” said Bridwell.

People can still purchase alcohol to-go from breweries, but it cannot be consumed on the premesis.