Judge says Texas bars, restaurants can fill and sell beer crowlers

Crowler at Cuvee Coffee. (Courtesy: Cuvee Coffee)
Crowler at Cuvee Coffee. (Courtesy: Cuvee Coffee)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Administrative Judge Lesli Gin has ruled that bars and restaurants should be able to fill “crowlers” with commercial beer and sell it to customers to take home.

In September 2015, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission seized canning equipment from Cuvee Coffee in east Austin. The state says Cuvee was breaking state rules when they filled growler-sized cans called “crowlers” with beer. In a press release, TABC said only businesses with a permit to manufacture or brew beer, ale and malt liquor on -site are allowed to can their products for resale.

The coffee bar was issued an initial warning with a 30-day deadline. After the deadline expired, the company stated on social media that they would continue filling and selling crowlers in spite of TABC’s directive. An undercover investigation by the commission revealed staff repeatedly selling crowlers after the deadline.

After a year-long battle and a lawsuit filed against the business by TABC, on Nov. 17, the judge ruled in Cuvee’s favor. TABC has until Dec. 2 to appeal the judge’s decision—which means Cuvee Coffee can’t go back to selling crowlers just yet.

“The administrative hearing process allows ample opportunities for either party to appeal a decision,” explains TABC spokesperson Chris Porter. “Until the case is closed, the agency will continue to enforce the provisions of the Alcoholic Beverage Code related to canning of alcoholic beverages.”

Cuvee Coffee owner, Mike McKim tells KXAN regardless of whether the state appeals the judge’s decision, he hopes to lobby the Texas legislature to change the law and permit crowlers.

“If you read the judges ruling he mentions a tennis ball can and a mayonaise jar; we can put beer in those and sell it to go, but we can’t put it in a can. It’s just completely illogical,” said McKim, who says the ongoing legal struggle has hit the small business financially, “”Because we have to fund this legal battle we have less resources to invest into staff, into our company, and into the community.”

The TABC told Judge Lesli Gin that they are concerned that allowing companies to can beer themselves and then sell it to-go could lead to collusion between manufacturers and retailers.

A spokesperson from TABC tell me they have until December 2nd to file the paperwork to appeal and in that time, they’re allowed to keep the crowler machine and it’s associated parts.

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