State

Elimination of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Filed in Texas House

If left to Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville), the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) would be given its last call this legislative session.

Middleton filed House Bill (HB) 4069 just before the deadline that would eliminate the TABC and move some of its functions under the wing of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).

Section 17 (c) reads, “All rules of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are continued in effect as rules of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation until superseded by a rule of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.”

The TABC found itself the source of vexation last year when it became the tip of the state’s spear for the shutdown of businesses.

The agency’s stated mission is to “serve the people of Texas and protect the public health and safety through consistent, fair and timely administration of the Alcoholic Beverage Code.”

“TABC regulates all phases of the alcoholic beverage industry in Texas, including sales, taxation, importation, manufacturing, transporting and advertising.”

Last summer, the agency executed numerous sting operations — one statewide undercover operation resulted in the alcohol permit suspension of 17 bars and restaurants.

The investigations continued throughout the state operating from the 51 percent line drawn between restaurants that could open with limited capacity and bars that spent the better part of the summer closed entirely.

That line was drawn, not by the TABC, but by the governor’s shutdown strategy. It centered on the ratio between alcohol and food sales. If 51 percent or more of a business’s receipts came from alcohol sales, then it was classified as a “bar” and thus subject to stricter limits.

Originally, that classification was based on pre-pandemic business models and was not flexible enough to account for functional changes businesses implemented. After a while, the TABC loosened its protocols and allowed businesses to file updated classifications.

Confrontations occurred frequently, though, like in the Friendswood bar that said it was harassed by authorities for social distancing and masking violations or the Fort Worth bar owner who gained a following by explicitly defying the TABC and state restrictions.

A TABC spokesman told The Texan, “TABC is unable to comment on pending legislation. Our focus has been, and continues to be, providing outstanding customer service and promoting the health and safety of all Texans.”

Middleton said in a statement, “TABC should facilitate the operations of small businesses, not strive to punish them and shut them down. It did not fulfill its mission to help small businesses and should be abolished.”

“TABC’s actions cost many their life savings. The agency threatened fines, penalties, and the loss of license to operate for many in Texas — all because they were trying to make a living.”

Back in December, Middleton legislation to prohibit a business’s operating license from being suspended for violations of emergency management rules.

If the legislation passes, the TABC would expire on September 1, 2022.

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