Alcohol-To-Go Is Now Law in Texas. Should it Be?

Alcohol-To-Go Is Now Law in Texas. Should it Be? Texas passed a law in May 2021 that permits customers to buy alcoholic drinks from bars and restaurants without having to drink them in the restaurant or bar. The law began as an executive order by Governor Abbott to help restaurants and bars during the pandemic. Many restaurants and bars, by definition, require sales of alcohol to make a profit. Texas and other states are now passing law to make the alcohol-to-go orders permanent laws.

The law (House Bill 1024), according to CBS Dallas/Fort Worth, was introduced by state senator Kelly Hancock and ultimately was signed by the Governor in May. The full text of the law can be found here.  The new law requires that cocktails be sold “in sealed and tamper-proof containers and be picked up as part of food orders.” Kristi Brown, the Senior Director of State Government Relations for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said that “Cocktails to-go provided a much-needed lifeline for struggling hospitality businesses and prevented the permanent closure of many.”

Why alcohol-to-go laws are popular with patrons and bar owners

The trend towards alcohol-on-the go isn’t limited to Texas. During the pandemic, over 30 states and Washington DC, eased up the rules which had limited restaurants and bars from selling drinks to-go. There are different variations such as laws that permit people to use alcohol driving services or even to hire a rideshare service (such as Uber or Lyft) to take you to the liquor store.

The Wall Street Journal explained that trend towards approving alcohol-on-the-go services is likely here to stay. Customers love it because they can get their favorite drinks (from restaurants or in carry-out form), and restaurants love it because it’s easy money. The labor involved in preparing a drink is much less than the labor for cooking a hot meal. 20% of takeout customers, according to the National Restaurant Association trade group, included alcohol in their purchases while 18% of delivery customers added drinks.

Online sales are increasing dramatically. Sellers such as and Minibar Delivery did quite nicely during the pandemic. Data from Earnest Research, which examines credit and debit-card transactions, showed that, due to delivery apps and platforms, alcohol sales tripled in 2020 as compared to 2019. According to NielsenIQ, sales of liquor at food establishments increased by 27%.

The chief executive of Grubhub said of alcohol delivery, “we are doing it everywhere it’s legal.” Companies are making deals to extend their reach into sales of alcohol. This year, Uber bought alcohol delivery service Drizly for more than a billion dollars, with plans to integrate its services into Uber Eats, while also allowing it to continue alcohol-only delivery services.

The effect of alcohol-to-go on DWIs

As Ignition Interlock Help wrote in 2016, alcohol-on-the-go may even help reduce driving while intoxicated offenses. For example, if you’re hosting a party and need more alcohol, you don’t want anyone who is intoxicated to drive. A solution is to call a business that sells alcohol and have the alcohol delivered to the party by a sober driver.

The alternative, drinking and driving, is dangerous and is likely to result in a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) conviction. Drivers who are convicted of a DWI in Texas may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle. An IID tests the driver’s blood alcohol content. If the BAS is too high, the car won’t start.

Some of the concerns being raised about alcohol-to-go

There are critics, of course. Opponents of loosening the laws are especially concerned that the new rules will make it easier for younger people to consume alcohol. Critics also worry that states are moving too quickly to overturn rules that have been on the books for decades. Some owners of liquor stores and law enforcement unions are concerned that the ease of restrictions can increase drunk driving – presumably because drivers will drink while the carry-out alcohol is in their vehicle. Drivers who already have a high blood alcohol level may order one more drink for the road. Some intoxicated drivers may drive to a bar or restaurant just to order a take-out alcohol delivery. Some critics think that there needs to be ID enforcement requirements and “safe handling guidelines.”

All of these are valid concerns, and Texas should pay close attention to what happens over the next year or so. According to MADD, drunk driving numbers stayed high in parts of Texas in 2020, and local police around San Antonio reported in October 2021 that they are seeing an increased number of drunk drivers, especially youthful ones. The new laws have not been in effect long enough to see any patterns about DWI rates and to-go alcohol sales, but those rates will be worth looking at in the future.

There is also a risk of seeing increased number of civil dram ship lawsuits. Under the law, a bar or restaurant who overserves a visibly intoxicated patron can be held liable for damages if that patron causes a wreck. If a person orders drinks through an app, though, how would the seller know? How would the seller know if the person on the other end of the delivery is legally old enough to drink?

All of this matters because a simple change in alcohol delivery may affect multiple areas of law later on. We may see a whole new type of criminal charge pop up as a result.

If you’ve been arrested for a DWI or a DUI/DUIA, the police and courts won’t care when and you bought the liquor. They just want to know if you drove your car while you were intoxicated. At Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm, our Killeen DWI defense lawyers work to show the police did not have grounds to stop you, that the breath or blood tests were invalid, and assert other defenses that apply. There are serious consequences to a DWI conviction including prison time and loss of driving privileges. For help with any DWI, call us at 254-680-4655 or complete our contact form. We have offices in Killeen and Copperas Cove.