Two state legislators from across the aisle are working together to legalize the sale of beer that can be taken to-go from craft breweries.
Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, introduced companion bills in the House and Senate that are designed to give craft brewers a privilege other alcohol distributors in Texas already have.
“I have many craft breweries in my district — just off the top of my head I can count five,” Rodriguez said. “I mean, I’m a business-friendly Democrat … the epitome of small business is these craft brewers. And it’s a shame that we have a state law that’s not only unjustifiable — it’s antiquated and it limits their growth.”
Wineries and distilleries can sell their respective beverages to-go. Charles Vallhonrat, the executive director of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, said passing beer-to-go legislation is important because it provides craft brewers an opportunity to grow a loyal customer base.
“The ability to take that beer home creates a broader experience for the person who goes to the tap room,” Vallhonrat said. “There’s a little bit more attachment to the brand, and that brand experience may get shared with friends and neighbors so they may build interest in the beer.”
Vallhonrat also said the inability of craft breweries to sell beer-to-go causes them to miss out on a significant marketing opportunity.
“There is a tourism aspect to this as well that benefits all of Texas,” Vallhonrat said. “With the craft beer industry growing as it is around the nation, people are accustomed to going to a brewery, visiting it and maybe taking a little bit of that trip home with them. And that’s what we’re trying to offer in Texas.”
In a statement, Buckingham said she filed her version of the beer-to-go bill to benefit her district’s economy.
“Senate District 24 is home to many craft breweries,” she said in the statement. “And with Texas being the only state in the country that does not permit off-premise sales at production breweries, I have filed SB 312 to encourage further economic development in my Senate District and to eliminate this unnecessary government overreach.”
Although Rodriguez and Buckingham have formed a bipartisan alliance to pass beer-to-go legislation, Rodriguez said there is still opposition to it by beer distributors.
“The beer distributors, the lobby group, is very much against it. They don’t really have a legitimate reason as to why,” Rodriguez said. “This is like 1 percent, maybe, of the beer sold in Texas, and it’s not going to get cut into the profits of the major beer distributors.”
However, Rodriguez said he is not deterred by the beer lobby’s opposition to beer-to-go.
“I am up against a very powerful lobby that does kind of throw their weight around,” Rodriguez said. “But you know at some point, the time comes to just make that change, and this might be the very session to do it.”