Somebody’s Trying to Legalize Beer and Wine Sales in the Heights Dry Zone

TABC regional headquarters in Heights Medical Tower, 427 West 20th Street, Suite 600 Houston Heights, Houston, 77008

A group called the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition PAC is hoping to bring about a vote on allowing beer and wine sales in the technically dry section of the Houston Heights. The group published a notice on May 5th announcing an application to the city to start collecting the petition signatures required to get the measure on a local option ballot.

Here’s the text of the required public notice:

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The Houston Heights Beverage Coalition Political Action Committee will submit an application to Anna Russell, City Secretary for the City of Houston in compliance with Section 501.023 of the Texas Election Code, in order to circulate petitions to the qualified voters of the area formerly known as the City of Houston Heights as it existed on February 19, 1918, now within the City of Houston, Harris County Texas, so that a local option election can be called on the following issue: For/Against “The legal sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption only.” This public notice was paid for by Houston Heights Beverage Coalition Political Action Committee.

The group’s immediate goal isn’t to do away with all alcohol restrictions, and the proposed ballot measure wouldn’t get rid of the current private-club workaround frequently employed by area bars and restaurants. But the proposal would lift existing barriers for stores trying to sell beer and wine to be carried away elsewhere — an issue that forced the recently closed Fiesta Mart at N. Shepherd and 24th St. to install its traditionally-in-the-parking-lot Beverage Mart a full 4 blocks away on the corner with 28th St. (across the northern boundary of the zone).

After a 2009 incident in which the city and the local TABC office (itself located within the dry zone in the office midrise shown above) approved and then quickly backpedaled on a liquor license for 3202 White Oak Dr., the Houston Heights Association printed a map of the zone boundaries in a June 2009 newsletter. That publication also included a link to the 1937 Texas Supreme Court ruling that declared the city of Houston Heights’s pre-annexation alcohol rules still in effect until such time as they are voted away by residents of the zone.

Photo of TABC regional headquarters in the Heights Medical Tower at 427 W. 20th St.: LoopNet

Watering Down the Dry Laws

28 Comment

  • Lived in the Woodland Heights for over 18 years. If this passes, might as well rename the greater Heights as Bellaire North or The Woodlands South or Katy Frontage Road East anything that lets people know that the area has lost its heart and soul.

  • @Jost – Losing its dry zone would make The Heights lose its heart and soul? I don’t see how.

  • OK, here’s where things get complicated.
    The current Alcoholic Beverage Code and Texas election law only provide for the possibility of holding a local option election in a county, municipality or JP precinct. It is therefore not clear that the application for a petition can be accepted as written, since the “area formerly known as the City of Houston Heights” is none of those things.
    To complicate matters further, if the application were re-submitted as covering Harris County Precinct 1, which covers the entirety of the dry area, it may STILL not resolve the matter. Current law essentially says that, for the purposes of local option elections, the vote of a justice precinct doesn’t prevail over the vote of a city, independent of date of election. So the 1918 prohibition election would trump the 2016 local option election.
    There’s a reasonable reading of this that indicates the only way to allow alcohol sales in the dry Heights is a local option election for the entire City of Houston. Since petitions require a number of signatures exceeding 25% of the votes cast in the last general election, the petitioners would need many more signatures than there are actual residents of the affected area.
    Good luck with that.

  • Funny, I actually think of most of the Heights as all of those other soulless suburbs for reasons exactly like this. Oh how I miss all of those 2007-2010 Heights NIMBY discussions.

  • Sounds good to me. This means that I could buy beer/wine at the 20th Street Kroger, but we still have a strong tool to control bar proliferation. I actually worry that the lack of alcohol sale revenues at that Kroger could cause them to close the store.

  • Yeah!!!!

  • there are lots of bars , restaurants, and private clubs that sell alcoholic beverages. I do not know anyone in the Heights that can’t get a drink if they want one. One bar opens at 8 a.m. if you need one. Some of the Stop n Gos have a decent selection of beer and wine. The parts of Heights that are dry, seem to be more residential, with schools. So is the plan for more night clubs or is there a plan for an entire bar crawl area to go with all the hundreds of apartments that are going up ?

  • @TacoTruck: Lack of alcohol sales might not help that Kroger; to me it would seem that the store at Shepherd/11th would be a bigger threat. In that vein, look at the Fiesta on Stude around 14th was just outside the dry zone and got cut well before the recent one (Shepherd and 23rdish?) which is counter to what we’d expect.

    I wonder where the money is coming from. Kroger wouldn’t surprise me, nor would a major retailer like Spec’s. I can imagine some of the retailers (and maybe on premise locations) just outside of the Heights proper would be the losers on this. In fact, Kroger’s benefit seems like an even exchange at best, considering they also have that new store on Stude just south of 10 (and personally, when I was in Woodland Heights I thought that both the 11th and Stude stores were 10x more convenient than the Heights one, despite all 3 being similarly close)

  • HEB would like to open in the Dry area

  • This campaign MUST be some sort of crowd funded effort by those under-employed Millenials who live by the saying ” Leave no craft beer behind.” Walking / cycling to the Kroger on 11th is way too much work and besides the sidewalks are all broken up and generally “icky”. Dang whipper snappers. What’s an old Gen X’er like me supposed to do now that all these precious snowflakes want to start changing things to make it “better”. Come on people, stop the gentrification of the Heights and Shady Acres. Save the Pawn Shops. Keep the shady in Shady Acres.

  • @partycity,
    There’s currently nothing stopping bars and nightclubs from operating in the dry area, so long as they’re licensed as private clubs. The only thing being dry prohibits is a grocery store (or convenience store, or specialty wine/beer retailer) from selling beer and wine.

  • The most logical conspiracy theory would be that HEB is pushing this so they can take over the now vacant Fiesta building on N. Shep. The planned Whole Foods 365 up the street at 610 and N. Shep on the Neff Rentals property is outside the dry area and would crush HEB if they were not able to sell booze down the street. But, HEB would save tons of money not having to build from the ground up and could easily convert the existing old Fiesta building into an HEB.

    Death Kroger on 20th is just a zombie store. I would imagine that they are just holding on as long as they can to keep other competitors from moving in. I am sure they would be happy to get to sell beer and wine, but I do not see any future in that store or anyone at Kroger lifting a finger to get booze sales legalized. Weingarten will eventually plow that development under and start over once leases run out.

    The dry area/private club requirement does a good job at filtering out Wash Ave type establishments while allowing a number of great new restaurants to open in the Heights. I do not think that anyone in the Heights would want to do away with that restriction. But an exception to allow carry out beer and wine sales (not hard liquor) would probably pass if it was seen as a way to get HEB to come to the neighborhood.

  • Doghouse I hope you’re being sarcastic. Any millennial that claims to live in the heights, is usually a crusty apartment or depleting shotgun house on the fringe. Definitely not the McVictorians on Heights Blvd., or the Mock North/South Blvd. to the east. Living in the Heights is equally as lame as living in Panther Creek. You’re not a real resident unless you were there pre-Y2K. :P

  • H.E.B.

  • – GL – The area has been changed dramatically the last few years by folks who 1) have the $$ and 2) want to live close to an “in” area and 3) want a suburban life style inside the loop. They (yes a broad generalization) are not as communal as are long time residents so are less neighborly, less inclined to get to know their neighbors and more inclined to want more people that “look like them” as neighbors. This is driving out what made the area so interesting to begin with.

  • Anyone who can’t walk, bike, or drive to a store just outside the dry zone needs a 12-step program, not more access to craft beer and cheap wine. For the past 26 years, my spouse and I have survived nicely, and our guests have sipped the beverages of their choice as well. IMHO, it is indeed the well-heeled millennials who miss Mid-Town and Washington Avenue and think the Heights would be ‘better’ if just a six pack of Pussy Wagon were available next door..

  • Wow.
    1 – What an incredibly expensive proposition to run an election in a an area that is not an identified jurisdiction and primarily residential. Can you imagine the fees on lawyers? Litigation? Appeals? And GIS experts? The lobbying costs? I am not sure how this is justified by the “coalition.”
    2- I cannot imagine voters (residents) would vote to undermine their property values and turn the Heights into a Montrose.
    3- Residents have already strongly acted in opposition of establishments that might have adverse impacts – i.e. Gelazzi and the Heights Mercantile. The residents near White Oak and 7th between Yale and Oxford have a lot to lose. I imagine they would strongly oppose such a petition.
    4- Seriously, as Darby Mom indicated we can walk to restaurants. This is not necessary and would eviscerate the core of the historic heights.

  • Hi, I bought my house in the Heights in 1920. As a heights resident and great grandfather father of fifteen I fully support a next door pussy wagon.

  • You say you want the HEB but they have a terrible reputation for not putting in adequate drainage. Vote down the ban and watch your neighborhood fill up with water. The crooks at HEB need to be tarred and feathered and run out of town. The Kroger on 11th is just fine.

  • @ Heights Neighbor, Interesting. I am of the thought that the heights popularity increased because people were priced out of Montrose. From a street perception level, it seems prices are higher in Montrose than the Heights. This is inclusive of 1) being closer ‘in’ 2) having more bars/restaurants 3) having better schools. I’m happy to be proven wrong on a $/sq foot basis of land value.

  • Yikes. Y’all are geting hot over beer /wine sales in grocery /convenience stores. What really drives this is the self-anointed yupsters who do NOT want riff raff in their hood. The SAME yupsters who have RUINED the Heights with their NIMBY attitude, their way too big McMansions and their holier-than-thou mindset..

  • I assume that all the “original” heights residents who are complaining about this will not be shopping at the prospective new wine-and-beer-selling HEB once this passes. Which is totally fine with me, shorter lines for Pussy Wagon.

  • The Heights has grown by almost 80% over the past ten years, Montrose is closer to 60%. Seems reasonable to expect that the Heights’ growth will approximate Montrose if it is allowed to develop like Montrose.

  • As expected, the pearl-clutchers are apparently unaware of what the phrase “sale of beer and wine for off-premise consumption only” means. It would have no effect on current regulation of bars and restaurants, which sell for ON-premise consumption. The private club license already allows establishments to sell alcohol for on-premise consumption regardless of dry status.
    What the current status prevents isn’t a place like Coltivare; it prevents a place like Premium Draught (the growler place next to Antidote).

  • How about supporting this effort as a tribute to freedom, and to thumb one’s nose at antiquated, religious-based laws that impose certain beliefs on modern society? I lived in East Texas when it was mostly dry, and found that dry laws were based on staunchly Southern Baptist/Bible Church belief that alcohol is the devil’s elixir. The laws were imposed using the bully pulpit and moralist principles to shame people into complying with laws that inhibit a freedom enjoyed by humanity for thousands of years (responsibly enjoying alcohol). Most of the people in my town in public would support dry laws, but in private would tell you that they secretly wish the county would go wet. Also, anytime you restrict something that people are going to do anyway, you get all kinds of weird outcomes and you end up controlling it even less. In East TX, the neighboring county was wet and allowed strip clubs, so at every major highway crossing into that county, you would see a cluster of strip clubs and beer and wine stores. It was a hassle, but in now way stopped anyone from drinking or going to strip clubs. It just transferred the profit, tax revenue, and public moral “conscience” into someone else’s backyard. Society needs to open up and quit making issues of behaviors that will not ever go away and that harm no one.

  • The DRY Single Family Neighborhood of the Heights represents see than 1% of the entire area of the City of Houston. Businesses seeking to sell liquor have tremendous opportunity to do so — beyond the boundaries of the Historic Heights “zoned” dry.

  • If this were to get on the ballot, I could see this as being the Austin Uber election part II. It would get played as a locals versus corporate interests election and would not end well for either side.

  • Who specifically is and runs this PAC?