Houston Fights Food Deserts Through Alcohol Sales

Grocery stores will now be able to sell alcohol near hospitals and churches. Houston City Council passed the new exemption in an effort to solve the issue of food deserts in low-income neighborhoods.

Grocers will still be prohibited from selling alcohol near public and private schools, but now proximity to hospitals and churches will no longer be  an impediment to building new grocery stores.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker says there’s already an independent grocery store called Pyburn’s ready to build in the Third Ward.

“Every grocery store out there raises the issue of we need to be able to sell beer and wine to meet out minimum definition and this change in ordinance facilitates that. But we put plenty of safeguards in to say that this is designed to allow a true grocery store to come in and, as a small part of their bottom line, sell beer and wine.”

Parker says food deserts are an impediment to neighborhood revitalization.

“This is about building stronger communities and neighborhoods because if we can get the grocery store in, that incents more developers to come in and build better housing stock and so there’s a positive benefit there. But it also impacts the long-term health of our citizens.”

Under the terms of the ordinance, only grocery stores of 10,000 square feet or more will be allowed to sell alcohol.

Convenience stores and gas stations will still be restricted.



Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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