You may need a permit to give away free alcoholic beverages in Texas.

Under specific circumstances, Texas liquor laws allow you to give away free alcoholic beverages without a permit. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has rules in place regarding instances in which you can give away free alcoholic beverages without a liquor license. A clear understanding of these rules is paramount to avoid legal penalties. 

Bertolino LLP is a Texas law firm with many years of experience in professional and occupational license defense cases. Our Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) license lawyers want to help you avoid legal penalties. Our firm can advise you on how to legally give away free alcoholic beverages without a permit in Texas. 

How TABC Defines a “Free” Alcoholic Beverage 

According to TABC, an alcoholic beverage is “free” if you make it available to any adult who enters a venue and requests it. Another requirement is that there should be no expectation that you will receive a donation, tip, or payment. If a customer is required to pay for an alcoholic beverage, you would need a TABC permit. 

A wedding reception is one of the most common examples of an event where you do not need a permit to serve alcoholic beverages for free. In this instance, the bride and groom may offer a glass of champagne or other alcoholic beverages to all adult guests. They do not expect these guests to pay anything for the beverages, so they do not need a permit. 

In addition, an upscale boutique may offer free alcoholic beverages to adult visitors. The boutique can serve alcoholic beverages to these visitors as long as they aren’t required to buy an item. The boutique does not need a permit since adult visitors are not expected to make purchases. 

Times When Alcoholic Beverages Are “Not Free”

It is important to understand TABC’s definition of alcoholic beverages that are “not free.” If you serve alcoholic beverages to adults and accept donations, tips, or payments and do not have a permit, you could face fines or a number of other unwanted penalties.

TABC provides several examples of instances where alcoholic beverages are considered “not free.” These include:

  • A nail salon offers a “free” drink when an adult purchases a manicure. 
  • A charity hosts a private event that adults pay an admission fee to attend, and “free” drinks are served at the event. 
  • A tip jar is set up next to a keg of beer that adults can access for free, with the expectation that anyone who uses the keg will leave a tip. 

Do not take TABC’s permit requirements lightly. If you have questions about the rules and regulations that apply to your establishment, reach out to a knowledgeable attorney. They can provide the advice you need to protect your license and establishment.

What It Takes to Get a Permit So You Can Serve Alcoholic Beverages

If your establishment or event isn’t permitted to give away alcoholic drinks for free, you’ll want to obtain the proper license before you begin serving. Failing to do so could lead to a variety of negative consequences. Instead of risking a penalty, apply for a permit online via TABC’s Alcohol Industry Management System (AIMS). 

To apply, you will need to complete the following steps:

  • Onboard in AIMS: Create an AIMS account so you can move through the application process. 
  • Select an alcohol industry tier: Choose an industry tier so you can select the right permit. 
  • Establish and register your business: Make sure your business is registered with the Texas Secretary of State and Comptroller of Public Accounts. 
  • Get signage: Pick up any signs you need to comply with TABC’s sign requirements. 
  • Finish your AIMS application: Complete all sections of your application and have them signed and notarized.

It will take about 50 days from the date you submit your permit application to the time you find out if it has been approved. If TABC finds you are missing any information or has any concerns or questions, it will notify you accordingly. For those that have their application approved, they must maintain it in alignment with TABC’s requirements. 

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How to Renew a License to Serve Alcoholic Beverages

Texas requires that you renew your license to serve alcoholic beverages every two years. You may receive an email from TABC informing you that your license will expire soon. It is your responsibility to submit your license renewal application on time. 

If you do not submit a renewal application, you risk losing your license. Worst of all, you may inadvertently serve alcoholic beverages without a license. This can lead to severe penalties. 

 When it comes to a license to serve alcoholic beverages, err on the side of caution. To ensure compliance, you’ll want to keep track of your license’s expiration date and submit your renewal application at least 30 days in advance of it. Also, you can reach out to TABC if you have any concerns or questions regarding license renewal.

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Hours of Sale and Service of Alcohol in Texas

If you are selling alcohol in Texas, you’ll want to learn about all the rules that you must comply with to do so legally. An important law to familiarize yourself with is the state’s hours of sale and consumption. This rule dictates when you’re allowed to sell and serve alcohol.  

If your bar or restaurant has a permit to sell alcohol on the premises, you can only do so at specific times. Make sure you only sell and serve alcoholic beverages from 7 a.m. to midnight on Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday morning, and from noon to midnight on Sunday.  

Your establishment may be an exception to the rules mentioned above if you hold a late-hours permit. If you have a late-hours permit, you can sell and serve alcohol legally on-premise until 2 a.m. on any day of the week.

Legal Age to Serve Alcohol in Texas

Just as there are laws that govern the hours during which you can sell and serve alcohol, there are also rules that dictate how old an employee can be to sell and serve alcohol. Be sure to review the following minimum age requirements to ensure compliance with state law:

In most cases, establishments that hold alcoholic beverage licenses and permits are prohibited from employing individuals under the age of 18 to assist in the preparation, service, or sale of alcohol. However, there are several exceptions to this rule, including:

  • Package store: Individuals who work on-premises at or deliver for a retail location that is authorized to sell sealed containers of beer and other types of alcohol must be 21 or older. Individuals who are employed by their legal guardians do not have to meet this age requirement to be employed at a package store. 
  • Retail Dealer’s Off-Premise License: There are no minimum age requirements. TABC will notify you if you have violated any of its regulations. Employees who work at a retailer are not authorized to sell alcohol for off-premise consumption unless they are associated with a wine-only package store.
  • Wine and Beer Retailer’s Off-Premise Permit: There is no minimum age requirement for this type of establishment
  • Wine-Only Package Store Permit: Employees must be at least 16 years old to hold any type of position at this type of establishment.

While there are several age requirement exceptions for the above-mentioned off-premise establishments, retailers and other establishments that sell alcohol for on-premises consumption may not hire an employee under the age of 18 to prepare, sell, or serve alcoholic beverages. 

What to Do If You Violate TABC Regulations

TABC will notify you if your establishment is accused of violating its regulations. If you do not maintain a license or permit in accordance with TABC’s requirements, the risks can be significant. If you’ve been accused of committing a violation, you’ll want to take it seriously. Even if the claim is unfounded, you must look for a license defense attorney who has successful case results in TABC cases. 

Your attorney can review your violation and help you figure out the best way to defend against it. With help from your lawyer, you may be able to appeal the results of a TABC case in an administrative hearing. Your attorney can provide you with details about how an administrative hearing works and help you prepare for it. 

It can be challenging to appeal a TABC violation on your own. With an attorney at your side, you will have legal representation at every stage of the hearing process. Your lawyer will work in lockstep with you to submit a request for a hearing that puts you in the best position to get your TABC violation dismissed or reduced.

TABC Violation Allegations an Attorney Can Help You Fight

An experienced TABC license lawyer will have experience helping establishments recover from a variety of different allegations. You should seek the assistance of a skilled attorney if you’ve been accused of one or more of the following TABC violations:

  • Selling alcoholic drinks to an intoxicated person
  • Selling alcoholic beverages to people under the legal drinking age
  • Selling alcoholic beverages without the proper alcohol permit
  • Selling alcoholic beverages outside of the state’s hours of sale
  • Your establishment is owned by someone who isn’t on the establishment’s permit 
  • Your establishment is connected to gambling, illicit drug use, prostitution, or another illegal activity 

Consequences You Could Face After a TABC Violation

Hiring a trusted attorney to help you avoid the consequences of a TABC violation is essential if you want to protect your establishment and livelihood. That’s because the consequences of a violation can be incredibly serious and may include any of the following punishments and penalties:

  • Fines
  • Suspension of your liquor license
  • Revocation of your liquor license

As a business owner, failing to fight TABC violation allegations could lead to consequences that force you to close your doors. To learn more about the consequences of such a violation, review the TABC Public Safety Penalty Chart and consult with a seasoned attorney. 

Get the Legal Advice You Need to Continue Serving Alcohol

Following Texas alcohol beverage laws can be difficult, but it’s important to comply with all the rules and regulations that apply to your alcohol industry business. Doing so will allow you to continue operations without penalty or fine. That said, there’s always a chance that you’ll make a mistake or fail to abide by a law you were unaware of.

If that happens, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help you. They can also offer advice on how to give away free alcoholic beverages without a permit. To learn more, contact us to schedule a consultation.

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