WINONA, TX (KLTV) - It is official. Effective January 1, 2011, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will require anyone who serves mixed drinks in Smith County to get their alcohol from Winona.
The announcement came down Friday, but it took six months for the folks in Winona to prove themselves and they say they are ready.
Now, the landscape in Winona is definitely changing. The city went wet, last year, but only had two stores that sold alcohol. A short time later there were three. Manish Amin's store opened back in April. His coffers are full.
"I didn't think this would ever happen," said Amin. "The way things were going, I kind of lost hope."
Now there are five. A 7,000 square foot Booze-a-Palooza is expected to open in just a few days. It is wholesale on one side and retail on the other.
Back in February, the TABC said Winona's alcohol supply just could not support the demand from Smith County bars and restaurants.
"They literally didn't have the ability to do that - to service all of the accounts so this pause has been really good for them," said Bob Westbrook, president of the Texas Restaurant Association.
It gave Winona time to meet that demand. Westbrook says the January 1st enforcement date was no accident.
"The liquor distributors on the county line that have been serving these restaurants, that have already purchased [and] placed their orders for their holiday stock, they need an opportunity to deplete that stock," he explained.
"Where these guys decline, these guys will continue to build," said Westbrook. "Unfortunately, that's Texas Alcoholic Beverage law.
So if you plan on having "Jim Beam" and "Johnny Walker" over for dinner in Smith County they will have to stop over in Winona, first.
Winona Mayor Rusty Smith says he welcomes the growth from the boom in alcohol sales. He says the city's sales tax revenues have steadily increased as more stores opened up.
The following letter is being mailed to all holders of mixed beverage permits and local distributor permits in Smith County on September 10, 2010. A copy will be mailed to all local distributor permit holders in Gregg County.
September 10, 2010
To the Holders of Mixed Beverage and Package Store Permits in Smith County:
On February 26, 2010, TABC issued a letter suspending enforcement of Section 28.07 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code which requires that mixed beverage permit holders must purchase their distilled spirits within the county where a local distributor is also present. At that time there were only two package store permittees in Smith County. It was determined that they were not able to sufficiently supply the retail demand.
Since the initial assessment, the Commission has continued to monitor this situation. In August 2010, TABC completed a follow-up assessment to determine whether or not the two existing local distributors, along with three newly-opened local distributors in Smith County could sufficiently establish and sustain alcoholic beverage service to Smith County mixed beverage retail accounts.
The assessment included a review of all the liquor purchases made by the local distributors from January through July 2010, pictures and diagrams of the premises of both package stores, and a list of the 56 licensed restaurants in the county and their purchasing capacity. Our assessment took into consideration an analysis of each local distributors' staffing capacity, facility capacity, distribution/delivery system, inventory on-hand, financial ability to acquire sufficient inventory, and an analysis of the retail demand including the purchasing terms available to the overall retail market.
After careful consideration, it is my assessment that the Smith County local distributors now collectively have the financial capacity and other necessary means to sufficiently supply the retail demand of Smith County retailers. To ensure a smooth transition, we will allow an adjustment period through January 01, 2011, in an effort to foster the following conditions:
- Enable the Smith County retailers to begin establishing business relationships with Smith County local distributors.
- Allow local distributors in Gregg County that have been servicing the Smith County retailers to deplete their existing inventories.
- Allow Smith County mixed beverage retailers to provide uninterrupted service to the local community during the upcoming holiday season.
- Allow local distributors in Smith County adequate time to acquire inventory levels necessary to maintain and sustain the retail demand.
Therefore, effective January 1, 2011, TABC will lift the moratorium and begin enforcement of Section 28.07 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code. All Smith County mixed beverage retailers will be required to purchase alcoholic beverages within the boundaries of Smith County. In keeping with our commitment to serve the citizens of Texas in the most effective manner possible, I believe that allowing a transition period is appropriate and solicit your understanding and support.
Our decision in no way prevents local restaurants with mixed beverage permits from purchasing with newly established businesses in Smith County immediately. In fact, I continue to encourage it. The stability of the market is very important to the citizens of the community of Smith County and to Texans as well. Please feel free to contact me (512/206-3217) if you have any questions.