AUSTIN, Texas - It was a busy Friday lunch rush at Casa Garcia's. But the scene here was much different a few months ago when COVID restrictions keep patrons out. The emergency state waiver allowing alcohol drinks like margaritas with "to go" meal orders is a big reason why Casa Garcia's and others have survived the pandemic.
"Oh, it was extremely valuable. Along with having to-go food go out—we’re a Mexican restaurant so we sell a lot of margaritas and a lot of beer and when we didn’t have that it significantly impacted our business but when they allowed us to sell to-go, it changed everything," said General Manager Chris Murtha.
"It’s no exaggeration to say the Governor's waiver allowing Alcohol to Go during the pandemic saved thousands of restaurant jobs and I’m sure it saved individual businesses as well," said Kelsey Erickson Streufert, with the Texas Restaurant Association
Making the waiver permanent, according to Erickson Streufert, is key to long-term recovery.
"We are moving out of the crisis, but that doesn't mean we are back to normal. We have to have that recovery, that rebuilding phase and it’s going to take a lot of time for businesses to get back to the point where they were before the pandemic," said Erickson Streufert.
Several restaurants have created their own packaging and kits.
"Really having that ability for the restaurant to make the cocktail on-site and seal it and transport that is really the key, because when you're the customer, you are going to that restaurant for that whole experience, you want them to make that craft cocktail, that famous margarita that they are known for, if you wanted to make your own margarita at home, you'd just do that, right," said Erickson Streufert.
The industry doesn't feel it has increased the risk for Drunk Driving.
"No, we feel strongly that the safety parameters we built into the Bill are frankly more than sufficient," said Erickson Streufert.
Key safety provisions include; requiring all beverages to be sealed in original containers.
They can also be packed in a sealed-tamper-proof container that is labeled with the business's name. The words "alcoholic beverage" also have to be printed on those labels.
FOX7 found not everyone is following the new rules. Especially the one that prohibits transporting the beverage - in the passenger area of a vehicle. That can't be done if it is not in the original container. Dealing with compliance issues is a possible reason why the governor has not yet signed the legislation.
"We need to do, kind of, some industry education, what’s required from a licensing perspective, what’s required under the Bill in terms of safety, so I think you'll see him take a little bit of time just so we can do that education on the front end and make sure its implemented well on the back in," said Erickson Streufert.
Until the Bill officially becomes law the emergency waiver will remain in place.