Texas Insider Report: AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller expanded his request to Governor Abbott to reopen winery tasting rooms to include similar direct-to-consumer facilities for Texas distilleries and breweries. In a letter dated today, Miller asked Abbott to amend his June 26 Executive Order to remove Texas distillery tasting rooms, brewery and brewpub taprooms and beer gardens from the definition of bars and allow them to reopen immediately under the same health, safety and social distancing rules as Texas restaurants.
“In the effort to save lives, Governor Abbott should not destroy livelihoods,” Miller said. “On the eve of the holiday celebrating our freedoms, I’m asking Governor Abbott to return a little of that freedom to these Texas businesses and help them to survive.”
With closure of tasting rooms and direct-to-consumer sales, Texas distilleries estimate they have lost up to 80% of revenue due to COVID-19. Similarly, average small and independent Texas breweries have seen a 73% decline.
“Anyone that’s been to a tasting room knows they’re not the same as a bar,” Miller said. “Shutting them down does little to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but it does ensure that Texas distilleries and craft beer industries may never recover.”
In his letter, Miller reminded the governor that Texas craft beer and spirits are agricultural products. Because brewpubs and distilleries rely on Texas farmers for a wide range of locally grown commodities as ingredients, continued closure of their direct-to-consumer sales would have a damaging economic impact on Texas agriculture.
Miller also pointed out that in the response to the pandemic, Texas distilleries converted their operations to produce over $9.8 million in donated hand sanitizer for first responders.
“When breweries and distilleries suffer, we are losing more than just Texas products,” Miller wrote. “Beyond the impact on agriculture, closure of tasting rooms and taprooms will have a damaging downstream effect on glass manufacturers, trucking and marketing and advertising sectors among other jobs supported by this industry.”
Miller has been a longtime advocate for Texas businesses. During the pandemic, he launched the “Direct From Texas” online initiative to encourage direct-to-consumer sales of locally raised beef and other agricultural products.
Learn more about the Texas Department of Agriculture at www.texasagriculture.gov