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McAllen bar prepared to keep alcohol to-go sales after Gov. Abbott's support to make service permanent statewide

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Gov. Greg Abbott voiced his support to make alcohol to-go permanent over the weekend. It was a game changing strategy for bars in Texas when the pandemic hit their greatest stream of revenue. Now, it could be here to stay.

“There's other places you can go and get a regular domestic beer. We kind of wanted to focus on craft-style beer and showcase not only craft-style beer, but craft-style Texas beer. That was very, very important to us. That's something that we hold close to our heart,” said Alyssa Cantu, owner and chef at The Gremlin in McAllen, a bar and restaurant uniquely Texas.

When shelter-in-place orders kicked in, these social watering holes ran dry of customers. Bar owners scrambled their business models and tinkered with logistics.

Cantu explained, “We kind of brainstormed one night, and said okay, ‘Who has a car? Who can stay? Who has early hours?’ A lot of our staff was used to doing late night hours, because they had second jobs in the morning. So, we had to reconfigure that.”

The Gremlin transformed almost overnight just to keep up.

“We went from being a bar that carries a kitchen, to a kitchen that carries a bar very quickly,” Cantu said.

In March, Gov. Abbott realized bars needed a boost in sales. That’s when bars began selling alcohol to-go. It allowed The Gremlin to begin selling on tap by the bottle, six packs and wine directly to the customer waiting at the curb or at home. This new way of reaching the customer could become a permanent fixture in the bar business model.

The governor is considering making this permit, according to a tweet he posted saying, “This has my support!”

State Representative Tan Parker then responded he will be filing the corresponding legislation during the next session. Texas continues lifting restrictions, but with coronavirus cases spiking, some prefer to stay at home.

As long as bars can continue to pour one out, Cantu says they’ll adjust to make their customers happy.

“I really like the idea of staying home and staying safe, first and foremost. If you don't feel comfortable coming out and joining us in our patio, stay home and we'll take it to you. It's not a problem and it's completely legal,” said Cantu.

Alcohol sales are still required to be accompanied by a food sale and meet the legal age of 21. The state representative who intends to submit the legislation will have to wait for the next session to start in January.

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