The battle over booze in Houston's Heights is not over. Last year, voters in The Heights approved lifting the area's decades-long ban on alcohol sales to allow a new HEB supermarket to open in the neighborhood. Now, a group is seeking a similar ballot measure to lift restrictions on alcohol sales at restaurants. The Houston Heights Restaurant Coalition has begun collecting petition signatures to get the issue on this November's ballot.
Under current law, restaurants in the Heights must register with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission as a "private club" in order to sell alcohol, which is a major hassle. "Anybody that comes in who wants to order a beer or wine or a margarita has to sign a piece of paper to join the private club," says Bryan Poff with Texas Petition Strategies, who is organizing the effort. "The restaurant also has to maintain two separate sets of books---one for the alcohol sales and one for the food sales."
The coalition believes lifting the ban on alcohol sales will allow neighborhood restaurants to stay in business and compete better with large national chains. "It will save the restaurants anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 a year in additional expenses and administrative costs," says Poff. He tells KTRH the it will also make it easier for customers. "(Under current law) you can walk in there and be 60 years old, and they're still going to ask you for your ID and make you sign a piece of paper joining a club," says Poff.
Organizers must collect at least 1,500 signatures to get the issue on this fall's ballot, and Poff believes they will easily exceed that number, noting that last year's measure to approve alcohol sales for HEB passed with 65% support. "This time, they're actually voting on things they know," says Poff. "They know these restaurants, they go to these restaurants, and basically this is the restaurants asking the voters to help us like you helped HEB."