Many municipalities across the state of Texas and around the United States have adopted some form of regulation regarding “bring your own bottle” (BYOB) service.
Recently, the City of Houston passed a sweeping new ordinance that provided more guidance to local restaurants that have offered BYOB service in the past or that are considering adopting this type of service in the future. Specifically, the ordinance offers enhanced public safety measures for establishments that service patrons after midnight.
What is BYOB, and Why is it Important?
BYOB allows restaurant patrons to bring their own alcohol to a restaurant or other designated food establishment. Customers prefer a BYOB service for a variety of reasons. For starters, consumers enjoy sticking with their own preferences in alcoholic beverages. Instead of the limited options many restaurants provide, like a “house” red wine or limited beer options, BYOB allows consumers to enjoy their choice of beverages.
Furthermore, BYOB services often allow a restaurant patron to spend less on alcohol and more on food. Usually, businesses will understandably charge additional costs for the service of alcohol. Because it costs a business additional funds to maintain a full liquor license, procure alcohol through a supply chain, and employ additional staff to maintain and serve alcohol. Patrons can avoid these costs by supplying their own alcohol.
Purpose of the New BYOB Ordinance
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), which regulates the sale of alcohol throughout the state, does not require restaurants to acquire a state license when adopting a BYOB policy. Thus, restaurants that have difficulty obtaining a liquor license or that cannot afford to obtain one can utilize this TABC regulation to allow the consumption of alcohol as a substitute for alcohol sales.
As the Houston Mayor’s Office discussed in a recent press release about the ordinance, it aims to ensure that Houston restaurants understand the precise guidelines for BYOB service and aid law enforcement efforts to control and curb alcohol-related criminal conduct.
Houston’s new BYOB ordinance has been in the works for some time and emphasizes public safety for a city well-vested in practice. Notable aspects of the new ordinance include a requirement that BYOB establishments obtain a permit from the city and new safety requirements for establishments that serve alcohol after midnight.
Under Section 28-684 of the new ordinance, all applicable establishments must apply for a BYOB permit from the City of Houston to establish a BYOB policy for their customers. Further, each business location must have a permit to adopt a BYOB policy. This means chain restaurants and other businesses cannot adopt a network-wide policy on just a single license. Each individual location must obtain its own BYOB permit.
The ordinance only applies to restaurants and other businesses that TABC does not already license. Further, the business’s operation must encompass a timeframe that includes open hours between 12:01 am through 7:00 am.
Lastly, the ordinance does not apply to the following businesses or entities:
- Fraternal organizations
- Veterans’ organizations
- Universities or colleges that provide a degree program
- Certified farmer’s markets
- Bingo halls
- Banquet halls
- Theaters that accommodate more than 100 patrons
Because the new Houston BYOB ordinance emphasizes public safety, all applications require the submission of the following materials:
- The name, street address, email address, personal telephone number, and the state driver’s license of the owner and operator of the establishment.
- The legal name of the BYOB establishment.
- The owner’s interest in the BYOB establishment.
- The address and phone number of the BYOB establishment.
- The date the owner acquired the BYOB establishment or the date the establishment is expected to open.
- A criminal background check, including fingerprints and signed authorization of the owner and operator.
- A registration certificate or assumed name certificate of the BYOB establishment provided by the Texas Secretary of State.
- Certificate of occupancy.
- Scale drawings of the physical location, including a site plan, a floor plan, and designated areas of alcohol consumption.
- Security plan according to the new BYOB ordinance.
- A copy of the lease agreement.
The new ordinance also includes guidelines by which the City of Houston will approve and revoke permits and establishes an appeal process for denied permits. Furthermore, BYOB permits are non-transferable.
Employment Age Requirement
The new BYOB ordinance states that an establishment may not allow a person under the age of 18 on the premises during business operations. Furthermore, the owner-operator or an employee of the establishment may not allow a person 21 years of age or younger to consume alcohol on the premises. Lastly, every employee of the establishment must be at least 21 years of age or older.
Minimum Security Requirements
Every BYOB establishment must operate with a security plan approved by the City of Houston. The security plan must include the following provisions to operate lawfully:
- Hand wand or utilize walkthrough metal detectors for all patrons.
- Provide ample lighting in all areas, including the exterior of the premises and adjacent parking lot.
- One security must be employed per every 100 patrons.
- The establishment must use a video surveillance system with high-resolution digital cameras and maintain recorded footage for at least 90 days.
Annual Compliance Inspection
All BYOB establishments are subject to annual compliance inspections conducted by the City of Houston. The owner and operator of the establishment must schedule a yearly inspection with the Houston Police Department. Law enforcement personnel must be permitted to enter the premises and review the establishment for compliance. Any existing license holders must remedy any ordinance violations within 60 days of the inspection. The owner and operator must pay a nonrefundable fee to the city for each inspection.
Hours of Operation
A BYOB establishment must prohibit patrons from possessing alcohol on the premises between 2:15 am to 7:00 am or 2:15 am and noon on Sundays. Additionally, the same restrictions apply to the consumption of alcohol by patrons.
Texas Hospitality Lawyers
Every restaurant should have an experienced hospitality attorney to assist with all forms of federal, state, and local regulation compliance, including using BYOB accommodations and ensuring compliance with Houston’s new BYOB ordinance. At MehaffyWeber, we understand the challenges of working in the hospitality industry. Our attorneys know what our clients’ businesses face and develop appropriate and effective legal strategies to keep them in operation and successful. Contact us to find out how we can help your business.