Last year, voters elected to remove a law that said businesses could not sell alcohol for off-premise consumption.
That opened the door for businesses, namely a future H-E-B, to sell beer and wine.
This year, voters will be asked to basically eliminate all alcohol restrictions in the Heights.
Currently, businesses serving alcohol in the Heights “dry zone” are required to operate as private clubs, meaning they must create a non-profit arm, charge membership fees, and patrons must join that “private club” if they wish to drink at local watering holes. Back in June, however, a group of citizens formed the Houston Heights Restaurant Coalition and called for an election to support “hospitality businesses” in the Heights and overturn that section of the Heights remaining dry ordinance.
The group hired Texas Petition Strategies – who local residents are familiar with following H-E-B’s push to repeal an initial portion of the dry laws last year and build in the Heights — to circulate the petition, which eventually gained enough steam to be placed on the ballot. According to documents from the city, the Houston Heights Restaurant Coalition (with assistance from Texas Petition Strategies) collected 1,765 signatures verified by the city secretary as being courtesy of registered voters within the dry zone, far exceeding the minimum of 1,511 required for placement.
Per the Texas Restaurant Association, operating as a private club can cost restaurants anywhere from $3,000 to more than $20,000 per year in administrative costs, higher insurance premiums and more scrutiny from alcohol regulators. The PAC wishes to overturn the remaining portion of the Heights remaining dry ordinance to make such sales more efficient.
“Last year, the voters overwhelmingly said they wanted to modernize alcohol sales rules in the Heights in order to bring in a new grocery store like H-E-B,” said Scot Luther, head of the Heights Restaurant PAC. “Changing this law will support our current hospitality businesses in the Heights and help eliminate burdensome fees and red tape.”
Some, such as Heights lifer Anne Sloane, however, say the two efforts have no correlation whatsoever.
“Inviting bars to come into our neighborhood is quite different from allowing supermarkets to sell liquor to be consumed off-premises,” she said in August. “There are wine bars, sports bars, etc. We currently have a bourbon bar that has remained fairly tame as bars go, but do we really want to promote our neighborhood as a haven for bars?”