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Can I Give Away Free Alcoholic Beverages without a Permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC)?

colourful coctailThe Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) regulates all phases of the alcoholic beverage industry in Texas. The duties of the Commission include permitting and licensing, regulating sales, taxation, manufacturing, importing, transporting, and regulating advertising of alcoholic beverages. The TABC is authorized to grant, refuse, suspend, or cancel permits and licenses and to 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 truly 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 the 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 really free. A boutique that serves free wine while you shop, even if you don't buy anything, is really free.

When "Free" Drinks Are Not Considered Free by the TABC

If the "free" alcoholic beverages are only available to paying customers, then the TABC makes the assumption that the cost of the 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, those are not really free. If a tip jar sits next to a keg of beer expecting "donations," the beer would not be considered free.

Defending Against Alleged TABC Violations

If you are being accused of a TABC violation, we urge you to consult with an experienced license defense attorney immediately. 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 specific facts of the alleged violation.

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 (800) 210-0126 and schedule a case evaluation.

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Attorney Tony R. Bertolino is the Managing Partner with Bertolino LLP. Our Law Firm has been able to help people across the state of Texas through our offices in Austin, Houston and San Antonio. If you need an experienced lawyer to represent you, contact Bertolino LLP today.

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