TABC tries to turn away from tumultuous year with roundtable meetings

A bartender pours a mixed drink at a club on East 6th Street in Austin, Texas. (Nexstar File Photo/Wes Rapaport)
A bartender pours a mixed drink at a club on East 6th Street in Austin, Texas. (Nexstar File Photo/Wes Rapaport)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — State alcohol regulators are hosting a series of roundtable meetings across the state in the coming weeks and months, in an attempt to win favor with lawmakers and members of the alcoholic beverage industry.

This comes after a turbulent 2017, with half a dozen top officials leaving the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and a newly-implemented warning-based system. The agency is also up for review by the state’s Sunset Commission.

Spokesperson Chris Porter said the meetings were scheduled with two primary purposes in mind. The first is to provide updates on new initiatives and programs to “try and regulate the alcoholic beverage industry a little more efficiently.”

“Second, we want to get their feedback on what we’re doing right and what we can do to improve,” Porter said. “It’s up to them to tell us how we can do our jobs better.”

Longtime business and bar owner in Austin, Bob Woody, said he expected the meetings would be “a positive thing.”

“When [TABC officials] call, I answer the phone ‘What can I do for my governing body?’ And of course their request today or this time is, ‘Your governing body would like to see what we can do for you,’ and I appreciate that, so this is a positive thing,” Woody said.

Woody, who serves as president of the East Sixth Street Community Association (ESSCA) and owns more than 30 bars and businesses in downtown Austin, suggested TABC focus less on enforcement and more on education.

“I hope that we can get some application of some of our tax revenue toward something more tangible… like education,” he said. “Could be money used on educating people in our industry, or it could be money used on just education in the state of Texas.”

TABC reports that there are more than 52,000 licensed businesses, creating $40 billion for the state’s economy, with approximately $2 billion in tax revenue to the state treasury for fiscal years 2018-2019. Porter said TABC employs about 600 people across the state, including around 250 commissioned peace officers.

“When we ask those police officers and those other local agents to let us know when they see a potential problem, and hopefully turn our attention towards those areas that need to be fixed first, we can do that,” Porter continued. “And thus we’re spending our resources most efficiently, we’re serving the taxpayers most efficiently, and ultimately we’re making the establishments in Texas safer for everybody.”

Tuesday’s meeting in San Marcos will be followed by a Wednesday meeting in San Antonio, with 10 more scheduled for 2018. One meeting was already held, bringing the total to 13 planned roundtables.

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