“Dewhurst Bill” Will Allow You To BYOB To Any Restaurant

Restaurant owner Amy Severson is fightin’ mad. She just sent me a note: “I find it highly laughable that after 70+ years of a patchwork of liquor laws that take forever to modify, this one goes through like some bad Chinese food.”

She’s referring to what is being called the “Dewhurst Bill.” Seems our Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is a wine snob and is frustrated by not finding the wine he likes on Austin wine lists. Dewhurst has a bill on its way to the state Senate that would let Texans carry their own wine into liquor-carrying restaurants and leave with whatever they don’t drink. You can read the story here . Amy is calling around to local restaurateurs and will send a full report later. Guess I should send her a bottle from my stash.


  • PotNet

    I now propose The PotNet Bill, which will allow customers in Texas to carry their own food into a restaurant. It’s a free country, so why should I have to limit myself to the food a restaurant chooses to serve?

  • Worzel Gummidge

    A definite improvement on the status quo but restauranteurs should not be complelled to allow BYOB if they do not want to.

  • I’m with you guys. Come over and bring your own wine and food. Don’t forget the couch and the flat screen. and candles. (Oh, I’m out of Tide, too.)

  • IJS, “Dewie” better re-think his favorite restaurant, because if it goes through as written, they’re going to see him as a big “money suck” in a bad economy. Unless of course his favorite brand comes in a box.

    Of course many diners could have received a better deal had the legislators just changed the laws to let us purchase our product wholesale. It would mean an approximate 15% overall reduction in wine sales prices for those of us licensed as clubs.

    There doesn’t seem to be any compellation, tho’ not explicit (according to my discussion with the TABC), the word “may” in the language of the re-write seems to indicate it would be up to the owner. But this bill has not passed yet, and will probably contain some different language when it does, so I’m collecting feedback from those it affects.

    Yours too, would be appreciated, after all we want to please the guest.

  • Worzel Gummidge

    Amy: Then let the owner set the policy regarding what, and what corkage. They could also sell alcohol. The public would then decide which restaurants they wanted to patronize.

  • Oh, this is going to be good. Popcorn, refresh, popcorn, refresh.

  • Worzel, would that it was so fair and easy. You see, the product that I sell, by the rules of my license, cannot exceed a 35% cost. (State laws on clubs require only 35% of the sales price be available for inventory replacement). So while I would like to offer that bottle that only cost me $35 for $80, I cannot. But someone can go to a packaged liquor store (where they will pay 8.25% sales tax) on that same $35 bottle (remember, clubs have to purchase from retailers, not wholesalers), pay a $40 corkage (of which the state gets 14%) and undercut what I am able to sell it for.

    My hands are tied unless I flat out refuse to accomodate this, which is not a way to keep our guests happy. There are so many aspects of this that can create real problems for restaurants in a tough economy. Retail rent is fixed, and calculated on what the food and alcohol sales are “projected” for a location, sales drop, places close.

    By the way, in a fiscal review of this change, it was projected to be a revenue increase for state taxes.

  • Craig

    Amy: sorry for such a basic question, I don’t want to hijack the thread, but what’s the point of making restaurants purchase retail instead of wholesale? Do you pay 8.25% on your retail liquor purchases?

  • Worzel Gummidge

    This rule is says more than Nancy’s original description suggested. Accoring to the Houston Post (a dead-tree publication):

    “The legislation would allow Texans to take bottles of wine to establishments that have mixed beverage permits, allowing them to sell beer, wine and distilled spirits. Most upscale restaurants have such licenses.

    The restaurant would be allowed to charge a “corkage fee,” for opening and serving the wine, but the consumer could take what’s left after meal ends.

  • Worzel Gummidge

    Amy: I am advocating the abolition of that arbitrary restriction.

  • Since we re-sell our purchases, we are exempt from the sales tax, the state gets 14% of each sale on the back end when we sell it. This comes out of the sales price, it is not added on.

    The retial purchase requirement dates back over 50 years, and has to do with wet vs. dry properties among other things.

    When prohibition was overturned, the state set up a 3 tier sales system (manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer). But for “clubs” (which back then weren’t restaurants but actual “liquor joints” people joined -think Archie Bunker’s corner place, but requiring a membership), which were the only alcohol sales allowed in certain dry areas, they added a fourth tier.

    Morph ahead 50 years, and most neighborhood restaurants located away from “wet” strips are actually private clubs. Y’know, they ask for that pesky Unicard stuff.

  • Craig

    Sounds antiquated. Last question: is the state’s 14% take in addition to the sales tax we pay on that bottle?

  • Michael H

    Why does wine always get special legislation? They should go ahead and throw beer into that mix as well because there are just as many places where you can’t certain beer. But, beer always seems to be left behind.

  • The 14% is only for poured alcohol at an establishment that holds a Mixed Beverage license and is paid by the house.

    Holders of retail licenses (like Sigel’s or GoodyGoody) charge the purchaser an additional 8.25% sales tax.

    I believe holders of beer/wine (only) permits (ie. wine bars, smaller restaurants etc.) also charge the sales tax and do not pay the 14% of sales.

    It is very antiquated, and different in any city in Texas. East TX – you can’t hardly even find a club or restaurant that serves alcohol. In fact, if you’re on your way to Shreveport the last place to stop to purchase anything is in Terrell until the state line.

    In Houston, the entire city is “wet”, they don’t even know what a private club is, same with Austin and San Antonio.

    West TX – more dry than wet, but Amarillo has a fun place that serves cold beer and LARGE steaks.

  • Oops, the 14% will also apply to any corkage that a restaurant charges.

  • Matt

    This just gives the option to the restaurant/club owner to allow you to bring in and leave with your wine, and lets them charge a fee. It doesn’t require a restaurant to allow it — and I can’t imagine that it would ever be amended to require a restaurant to let a patron bring in whatever he wants. More options is a good thing.

  • Billusa99

    The rule should be the same for all licensed restaurants, as it is now for ‘beer and wine only’ licensed restaurants.

    You can bring a bottle of wine in if they allow it. They can charge you corkage if they want. There are lots of places like this in town who have done it for years and they do just fine.

    BTW, I have had more drinks than I can count in Longview over the years, in many spots. It’s a long way past Terrell and a lot closer to Shreveport.

  • Yes, but Bill, don’t you think it would be fairer if I was allowed to compete with your retail purchase that you bring in? What if I (as a business owner) decided that increasing to a 50% product cost could be offset by an increase in sales? More people seeing our much more reasonable prices might come into have a nice dinner, maybe order an extra glass of wine.

    What if I was “allowed” on that $35 bottle of wine to only charge you $70 for me to do all the purchasing and transporting, etc. to place it at the perfect temperature in front of you, problem free. Right now I can’t (see comment about 35% cost of goods sold limitations above). But think if I could a) purchase that wine wholesale, at a 20% discount, AND b) change my markup to double, I could sell that bottle for as little as $56, certainly a far cry from the $100 price limit placed on me by state law.

    On the one hand everyone wants a less expensive option, however the business owner is forbidden to be the one to offer it.

  • Derek V

    Question for Amy, up above you say something about not being able to discount a bottle of wine in relation to 35% What is this 35%? Isn’t that the pool percentage you get to pick as a club? Can’t you push that percentage up to 60% or whatever and then at the end of the month transfer the overage to your general account?

  • When we applied for our license 13 years ago 35% was the highest percentage. Am not sure about what it is now for clubs. The higher the percentage, the less that is left over to transfer over to cover operating (and tax) costs. The pool % does not include the 14% remitted to the state.

  • The percentages were meant to be low to thwart over-consumption, remember most of these laws were post-prohibition, and Dallas was a major hub of Southern prohibitionists called “Drys”. Link here: http://thedallascookbook.blogspot.com/2008/08/dallas-history-dry-america-1931.html

  • Derek V

    Ok, I’m pretty sure you can pick the pool percentage now. Code allows you a once a month transfer from the pool account to the general account for any overage not used for inventory replacement.

    These laws are certainly a pain to deal with. Shouldn’t need a law degree to serve great food and wine, thanks for the answer.

  • Rawlins Nichol-Plated

    As a private citizen, my first blush thought is okay/hoorah. But as a semi-logical human living in the so-called ‘real world’, this makes zero sense.

    I for one hardly drink wine and almost never order it. But I DO love Lavavulin Scotch. Which is min. $80 a bottle. And when I buy a rocks glass round at (say) The Porch, it was like $15. Same at Al Biernat’s. I could sure save money if I could haul my own bottle.

    For that matter, I think it’s insane what they charge for popcorn at (say) Angelika. Can I anticipate bringing my own?

    Dewhurst revealed more about himself with this one than he did when he set out to snare dead-beat Dads. It’s a self-important abuse of influence that serves to damage a lot of tax paying business owners at a time when that is hardly (say) timely. Time out. (Of office).

    Texas’ liquor laws are insane anyway. Why make them even dumber? Was this a head nod to Rick Perry, whose ‘leadership’ has made more than one Texan uncork a bottle before noon?

  • Go Amy!

  • It will be interesting to see how this will work out. There is no precedent for something like this, it is totally new.

  • Ok all you angry restaurant owners, chill out. As a 6 night a week restuarant ‘goer’, I can cut my bill at least in half with this new bill – so I’m pumped. Your business will increase exponentially. Most of us out there will spend more on food if we can cut the wine tab. Listen, most of us don’t appreciated the $80 bottles of wine either (what galaxy are you guys living in?) – we just want to enjoy a decent red or white for $10. This is the greatest thing that’s come out of the senate in years!

  • DeeLish

    Your reasoning is unsound, but before I continue with you, let me provide a brief overview of the TX state liquor laws outside of the private club laws that Amy covers.

    Law #1 Wine & Beer Permit.
    8% tax on alcoholic beverages, but wine can be brought in based on restaurant discretion & applicable corkage fees.

    Law #2 Mixed Beverage Permit. 14% tax on ALL alcoholic beverages. (Yes, the tax just jumped 6% on wine and beer).

    Most of the time restaurants do not pass on this 14% tax to the diner. Restaurants cannot change from license #2 to license #1 after the fact, so they are stuck with 14%.

    The current economy shows diners are not spending more because more deals are being offered. However, they are continuing to dine out while spending less on liquor and wine and many times while sharing dishes. Restaurants are already taking a hit.

    Alcoholic beverage sales are a large percentage of the estimated profit restaurants plan to make. This is why there are so few BYOB joints. They provide you proper shipping and storage environments, the glassware (very costly Riedel in many cases), decanters, ice buckets and ultimately, proper service. I personally don’t want to pay $250 for a fine Bordeaux that might be bruised or stirred up. Plus if the wine is corked most restaurants replace it.
    Spending more on food does not make up the difference. Food costs are typically around 30-40%. Are you going to eat two steaks instead of one since you are saving on the wine? I don’t think so.
    I see you are a fan of Starbucks. (The downside to posting your blogsite.) So I guess this means you are in support of me bringing my community coffee into Starbucks, plugging my fancy coffee maker into their free power outlets and brewing myself a cup of joe. Hey, I might buy a $1 biscotti since I have just saved $6 on a cup of coffee. I get the environment, usage of their coffee cups so as not to dirty mine, access to their condiments and usage of the Internet and a desk for the day.

    BTW – if you want a $10 bottle of wine (note this is less than double the cost of a single cup of Starbucks coffee you are purchasing daily) then go to a fast food joint and eat food that is on par with what you are spending.

    Restaurants will not survive if this allowed to continue without modification. Oh well, guess you will have to learn how to cook instead of eating out 6 out of 7 nights.

  • Pretty interesting article. Couldn’t be written any better. Browsing this post reminds me of my old friend. He constantly kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him. Am sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Very interesting article. Couldn’t be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old chum. He always kept talking about this. I will send this post to him. Am sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing! 🙂