Texas bars, wineries and distilleries can reopen to 50% capacity

By Sahar Chmais

Beginning  Oct. 14, bars and similar establishments can reopen to 50% capacity yet it is still up to the county judge’s discretion.  

The capacity limitations are only for in-door seating, whereas outdoor seating has no occupancy limits. Wineries and distilleries received this as great news; since their last shut down, the Texas Winery PAC and Texas Craft Spirits PAC’s have been urging the state to allow them to reopen. 

 “We’re grateful for Gov. Abbott addressing the economic crisis facing our small businesses,” said Patrick Whitehead, Texas Winery PAC board member. “As Texas continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, tasting rooms at hundreds of wineries, breweries and distilleries were closed, limiting consumer access, negatively affecting sales, impacting jobs, and reducing much-needed tax revenue for local and state governments.” 

Texas wineries and breweries bring in billions of dollars of revenue to the state through direct and indirect funds. 

Many wineries and breweries have argued that they could have safe reopening during the pandemic due to the outdoors space, spacious tasting rooms and the overall type of drinking environment they provide. 

“We’ve made clear that our businesses can safely reopen,” Whitehead said, “and we’re grateful for the opportunity to throw open our doors once again to Texans ready to taste and buy Texas wines.” 

Although the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has put bars, wineries and distilleries in the same category, owners of wineries and distilleries do not agree with that logic. Going forward, they would like to create a distinction between the two. 

“Texas businesses are struggling during COVID-19,” said Dee Kelleher, chair of the Texas Craft Spirits PAC, “and the craft spirits industry is no exception. While we greatly appreciated the Governor’s efforts to keep people safe during this COVID crisis, the prolonged closure took its toll on many of our state’s smaller distilleries. In the event there is another shutdown, we hope Governor Abbott understands that distilleries, wineries and breweries are not bars and should not be treated as such.”

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