City of Houston considering ordinance that would crack down on BYOB establishments

The proposed ordinance would require “after-hours” businesses that are not certified by the TABC to obtain a permit to operate, and adhere to a number of regulations or face up to $500 fines for each violation.


An empty miniature bottle that once contained liquor rests on a street near a sidewalk, Monday, April 3, 2023, in Boston. A Boston city councilor has proposed barring city liquor stores from selling the single-serve bottles that hold 100 milliliters or less of booze both as a way to address alcohol abuse and excessive litter.

The City of Houston is considering an ordinance that could mean stricter regulations for after-hours establishments that operate as Bring Your Own Beverage, also known as "BYOB". The city said there has been an increasing amount of criminal activity around the bars, clubs, and SOBs (Sexual Oriented Businesses) particularly after 2 a.m. when it’s illegal to sell alcohol.

A joint Public Safety and Quality of life meeting was held on Wednesday to tackle the issue that the city said is "posing a threat to the health and safety of Houstonians" allowing the city to have more control over enforcement.

The proposed ordinance would require "after-hours" businesses that are not certified by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to obtain a permit to operate, and adhere to a number of regulations or face up to $500 fines for each violation. The city would have the authority to sue businesses that fail to comply after multiple attempts.

"It's a way that a lot of our late night bars are circumventing the rules and the laws when they can't get certified by TABC, it’s creating a lot of not just quality life issues, but significant public safety risk," said District C Council Member Abbie Kamin, who is also the Chair of the Public Safety Committee.

A report by the Houston Police Department showed between November 1, 2022 – April 18, 2023, there were a number of offenses surrounding BYOB establishments. The statistics generated 9 murders, 32 robberies, and 103 aggravated assaults. Of those incidents, four murders, 13 robberies, and 36 assaults occurred after 2 a.m. HPD said one struggle is to track down the establishments to get an accurate count.

"We don’t know the ones that we have, where they are, or the locations of where they are. Sometimes they pop up one weekend, and they’re gone the next," said Assistant Chief Ernest Garcia. He said the department’s Records Management System (RMS) only captures where the incidents occur. "If it originated at the club, and then it went to a different location, we’re going to capture that location where the incident occurred – and oftentimes we will miss the location of where that bar or nightclub is located."

HPD did track 2,705 calls within 250 ft of those establishments between January 14, 2023 – March 23, 2023. Around 9 p.m. there were around 400 calls and the numbers remained steady as it got close to 2 a.m. as bars and nightclubs were closing.

Garcia said the ordinance is another tool to help tackle crime.

"It's intended to protect our communities, our neighborhoods, our businesses, our roadways – It's a primary safety consideration."

Some of the requirements BYOB businesses will have to go through in order to obtain a permit are: Fingerprinting and a criminal background check by the the FBI and DPS, certificate of occupancy, a site and floor plan, and designate areas for alcohol consumption, a security plan that meets the standards of the ordinance which has to be approved by a police official, and signage at each entrance that reads "BYOB Establishment".

The proposed ordinance would also put a number of security measures in place including, a hand wand or walkthrough metal detectors, security cameras, a minimum of one security officer per 100 guests, and doors must remain unlocked and unobstructed during operating hours – allowing police officers to enter and inspect premises.

The city and state doesn't have rules in place that regulate BYOB establishments that allow customers to bring their own alcohol. Several Council Members were in support of the proposed ordinance agreeing more enforcement is needed. District J Council Member Edward Pollard, had two areas on HPD's heat map with high criminal activity – Richmond and Bissonnet Street. He suggested that officers should be allowed to relinquish any alcohol from illegal BYOB establishments.

"How do we ensure that once you all write the ticket and leave the location that is just not business," he said. "We know that these BYOB's pop up because they’re not trying to do the right thing, they are trying to use loopholes and be bad actors – So what we want to see is these establishments shut down as quickly as possible, and all the good actors, all the nightclubs and bars that are doing it the right way – they want these places shut down as quickly as possible, as well because their competition without even having to go through the same regulation."

Kathryn Bruning is Deputy Director of the Administration of Regulatory Affairs. She said the lack of regulations is what's continuing to drive BYOB creating a public safety issue.

"We’re trying to bring some regulation and it also hits the businesses that we know have high crime activity between midnight and 7 a.m.," she said. "It establishes rules for the businesses that will allow the patrons to bring their own alcohol and consume it on their premises. Because right now, there’s no rules."

Bruning said Houston City Council is expected to consider the proposed ordinance in about three weeks.

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