Would Allowing Restaurants to Deliver Alcohol Affect Texas Open Container Laws?

On February 21, Texas state Rep. John Kuempel, a Republican from Guadalupe County, introduced House Bill 2152. This bill would make it legal for restaurants with a liquor license to deliver alcoholic beverages to “off-premises” consumers. In other words, if you order food from a restaurant via a third-party app on your phone, the restaurant could legally include alcoholic drinks as part of the sale.

According to a report in the Austin American-Statesman, the Texas Restaurant Association is backing HR 2152. The Association’s chief executive explained that if passed, the bill would not allow customers to “to get a to-go cup with a lid and a straw in it.” Rather, the restaurant could only deliver drinks that are “sealed in an original, single-serving container.”

The sealed-container requirement would be necessary because of Texas’ long standing prohibition on open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles. Although open container violations are often associated with DWI cases, the fact is that it is against Texas law to have any open bottle, can, or similar “receptacle” in the “passenger area of a motor vehicle” while it on a public street. It does not matter whether or not the driver is actually consuming the alcohol in the open container. The driver can still be cited for a Class C misdemeanor and fined up to $500.

HB 2152 does not propose to alter the existing open-container law in any way. The bill would simply allow for delivery of drinks in closed containers, such as bottles of beer, provided the restaurant filling the order already has the proper license to serve alcohol. The bill also mandates that any drivers who deliver alcohol must be at least 21 years old, which of course is the legal drinking age in Texas.

Texas Restaurant Association officials insist HB 2152 is necessary because of growing customer demand. For their part, officials from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the agency responsible for issuing liquor licenses in the state, did not respond to the Statesman’s request for comment. A spokesman merely said the agency “would weigh in on it if asked by lawmakers as it works its way through the legislative process.”

As of February 21, no formal action has been taken on the bill. As with all legislation, HB 2152 would need to be approved by majorities in both houses of the legislature and signed into law by the governor. As presently worded, the bill would take effect on September 1, 2019, if adopted.

Speak with a Houston Open Container Violations Defense Lawyer Today

It is important to remember that, regardless of context, you should never knowingly drive a car with an open container of liquor. And if you are stopped by law enforcement and cited for an open container or related DWI violation, you should contact a qualified Houston criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you require immediate assistance.