The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) regulates all phases of the alcoholic beverage industry in Texas. The Commission’s duties include permitting and licensing, regulating sales, taxation, manufacturing, importing, transporting, and regulating the advertising of alcoholic beverages. The TABC is authorized to grant, refuse, suspend, or cancel permits and licenses and investigate for violations of the Alcoholic Beverage Code and assist in the prosecution of violators.

Can I Give Away Free Alcoholic Beverages without a TABC Permit?

Yes, it is legal to provide free alcoholic beverages without a permit. However, you must take caution to ensure that the alcoholic beverages you are offering are genuinely free. Under the TABC standards, to be truly “free,” the drink must be available to any adult who walks in the door and requests it. Further, when you provide an alcoholic beverage, there cannot be any expectation of receiving money. You cannot ask for a “donation” or “tip.”

The TABC offers the following examples of giving away alcoholic beverages that are truly free and do not require a permit: A wedding reception with free drinks is free. A boutique that serves free wine while you shop is really free even when you don’t buy anything.

When “Free” Drinks Are Not Considered Free by the TABC

If the “free” alcoholic beverages are only available to paying customers, the TABC will assume that the cost of alcohol is included in the price of the service. The TABC does not consider these drinks as free. In such cases, this constitutes a sale of alcoholic beverages and does require a TABC permit. Essentially, if the drinks are only available to paying guests, then you need a permit.

The TABC offers the following examples of when providing alcoholic beverages is considered the selling of alcohol and requires a permit: A nail salon with a “free” drink when you pay for a manicure is not really free. If you buy tickets to attend a charity ball and they serve “free” drinks, these drinks are not really free.  Even when a tip jar sits next to a keg of beer expecting “donations,” the beer would not be considered free.

Reminder due to Covid-19

The TABC is out there with more enforcement agents and shows a zero-tolerance attitude towards any possible violation. We have seen and heard of several cases where companies got licenses revoked for tiny violations or mistakes. Don’t get caught with a violation or suspension of your TABC license. We know how the TABC works, and we can help you get your license back

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Defending Against Alleged TABC Violations

When you are being accused of a TABC violation, we urge you to immediately consult with an experienced license defense attorney like Bertolino LLP. Your business may be at risk of having its alcohol license revoked or suspended. Penalties for violations are dependent on whether it is a first or subsequent violation and if aggravating or ameliorating circumstances are present. The Standard Penalty Chart suggests cancellation of a license/permit, suspension, or a fine, depending on the alleged violation’s specific facts.

The attorneys at Bertolino LLP know how to build a compelling case to protect your liquor license – and your livelihood. If you have received a TABC complaint, we can help. We have successfully helped clients resolve a wide range of complicated legal matters involving license defense. Our honest, experienced attorneys will fight aggressively on behalf of your license and reputation. Contact us today or call (512) 476-5757 and schedule a case evaluation with our Client Relations Coordinator.

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