I’m OK with this.
The Texas Restaurant Association has asked Gov. Greg Abbott to revise the definitions of “bar” in his recent order closing drinking establishments in response to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
In a letter to the governor, the TRA argues that if businesses now classified as bars but equipped with permanent kitchen facilities are allowed to reopen as restaurants, 1,500 Texas businesses could resume operation and put up to 35,000 people back to work.
Under current state rules, any establishment that makes 51% of its revenue from alcohol sales is classified as a bar, even if it serves food. The TRA’s proposed change to that definition could clear the reopening of San Antonio businesses such as Southtown fixture The Friendly Spot and brewpub Weathered Souls.
“The definition of ‘bars’ in Gov. Abbott’s executive order has inadvertently captured a lot of restaurants, requiring them to close their dining rooms, even though they were following all of the statewide health protocols for restaurants,” the TRA said in a statement accompanying the letter.
“All restaurants should be allowed to serve the public under the same health and safety standards.”
Lots of bars serve food, and as far as I’m concerned, every bar that has a kitchen ought to be able to prepare meals to go for the duration and beyond. Let them sell mixed drinks to go, too. All that qualifies as low-risk activity and should be enabled and encouraged as a sensible way to let people work without putting their health in significant jeopardy. I’m less interested in letting them open their dining rooms at this time, especially now when we’re talking about maybe having to shut down again, but for to go service they should be considered as restaurants.
You may as well mark today’s date on your calendar, because it will be a long time before I say these words again: I agree with Sid Miller.
Currently, wineries and tasting rooms are lumped into the same business category as bars. That’s because more than 51% of their revenue comes from the sale of alcoholic beverages.
“I am sure you will agree tasting rooms are not bars, nor do they present the same reasons for concern related to excessive alcohol intake or inability to social distance as found in a bar,” Miller writes.
The letter noted that nearly 95% of all Texas wine is sold in tasting rooms, and without that revenue, Texas winemakers may not have the ability to purchase grapes for future Hill Country vintages.
“When these wineries suffer, we lose more than just wine,” the letter continued. “The closure of these testing rooms has a damaging downstream effect on the grape producers, wineries and surrounding communities…”
I’m a bit more measured on this one, since tasting rooms are mostly going to be inside. Outdoor tasting areas should be allowed with social distancing, and indoor tasting rooms should be allowed to operate with the same basic constraints as restaurants, which is to say with a max 50% capacity right now. I believe wineries can sell their wares to go for off-premises consumption, in the way that breweries now can, but if there are any restrictions on this they should be lifted, just as all of our anachronistic and anti-consumer laws regulating beer, wine, and liquor ought to be reformed or repealed. The point here is that both of these proposals are low risk and good for both the businesses and the consumers, and we should do them. Your move, Governor.
UPDATE: Case in point.