Will the New Montrose H-E-B Market Get an Alcohol License — Ever?

A Swamplot tipster is claiming that H-E-B’s Montrose Market, which opened earlier this week without a liquor license, will have difficulty obtaining one — unless some strings are pulled. Before the opening, H-E-B had announced plans not only to sell packaged beer and wine in the new store on the former site of the Wilshire Village apartments at the corner of Dunlavy and West Alabama, but to allow customers to order drinks by the glass and take them to the store’s outdoor patio as well.

But the license did not come through by the opening date. H-E-B Houston president Scott McClelland told Chronicle reporter David Kaplan on opening day that he expected it to come through in 4 to 5 weeks. A company spokesperson tells Swamplot that until the license is approved by the TABC, the store has stocked its future liquor department with other items for sale. What could have caused the holdup?


The campus of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, a Montessori school for toddlers through high schoolers, sits at the corner of Sul Ross and Woodhead, one block west of the new store. The city ordinance governing alcohol sales only prohibits them within 300 ft. of a school, and H-E-B blocked off any connection to its property from Sul Ross with a wall.

But the same ordinance also allows the governing bodies of private schools such as St. Stephen’s to request that city council designate areas within 1,000 ft. of the campus as an “alcohol-free” zone. And according to state law, that distance is measured in a straight line from property line to property line.

Photos: Candace Garcia

69 Comment

  • Ug. Such a stupid rule/law.

  • Duh… what a bunch of dumbasses. Guess they think rules don’t apply to them.

    Plenty of beer and wine across the street at Fiesta!

  • Duh. Like, seriously, duh. As if we didn’t all know about this ordinance??? Don’t you people ever READ Swamplot???

  • Firstly, considering the entities involved, whatever the delay/roadblock is, I personally believe it is of such a nature that ordinary citizens will never get a glimpse of the bare-knuckles being splayed behind the curtains.

    Considering the Butts family has been around the block a time or two (not to mention being in the top ten of the wealthiest families in America)-I find it extremely difficult to consider they would have put this beautiful outlet there, without having all their Mallards in a row. Having said that, it is most curious this issue is out there at this point.

    I’m not gonna bother delving into the injustice of giving ANY church an inordinate, often decisive voice in governmental, developmental or commerce driven issues. After all, when the covers are pulled back, churches are nothing more than ‘businesses’ themselves. Shady one’s, at that!

    Personally!! I believe it’s churches, etc., who should get the O.K. from residents before they invade and attempt to overtake yet another neighborhood. Just my 3 cents.

  • I call BS… W Alabama Ice House is plenty close (not sure about 1000 ft), and there are sex offenders that live closer

    That said, guess it all comes down to whether St. Stephen’s would request it. Maybe a compromise could be reached on what hours alcohol can be served?

  • markd, so the location across the street is one the government feels is okay to sell a product, but the building on the other side is somehow too close to xyz?

  • Yeah, it’s hard to believe that the HEB people weren’t on this from the start.

    Will be interesting to see it play out.

  • I see nowhere in the post where Swamplot states that a request was made by the school, or that this suggestion was even made by someone in authority who would know. If the request were actually made, that fact would be made public, as the Commissioners Court would then have to hold a hearing and vote whether to grant the request (it is not automatic except for HISD schools).

    Further, a closer reading of the actual statute referenced in the post would reveal that it does not even apply in this instance.

    Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code Sec. 109.33

    (f) Subsections (a)(2) and (3) do not apply to the holder of:(1) a retail on-premises consumption permit or license if less than 50 percent of the gross receipts for the premises is from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages;(2) a retail off-premises consumption permit or license if less than 50 percent of the gross receipts for the premises, excluding the sale of items subject to the motor fuels tax, is from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages;

    As this HEB will clearly sell far more non-alcoholic products than alcohol, the 50% provision makes this wild-eyed conjecture moot. Only the 300 foot rule applies.

  • I’m just wondering if anybody has found that at schools within a couple hundred feet of a store selling alcohol, there is any measurable difference in student alcohol use.

    Dumb, dumb law.

  • This is bad news for future development in the area.

  • Cody – It’s not my rule. I’d prefer the government get out of the rule bidness altogether. And didn’t Spec’s run into this with one of their new stores on Washington Ave., a couple years back?

    Shows me what typical corporate dumbasses are in charge at HEB – the beer / wine permit TABC and CoH shit should have been figgered out and understood from the get-go. And in writing too, knowing how the f’tards change the rules in the middle of the game. I’d be happy enough to see HEB never get a beer license. Screw ’em.

  • LOL markd, why all the hate?

  • 300 ft is the law. The school has no say in the matter. It’s automatic from the state.
    Spec’s was totally different because they had been issued a license and then the city came back to say they had measured the distance incorrectly.
    It looks like they HEB knew they had a problem in August.
    The other establishments in the area are grandfathered in as they were already doing business prior to the change in the laws years ago.

  • Good point. Why all the hate? The neighborhood just got better so why is everyone so upset? It will continue to develop and more liquor stores will come into the area, possibly with better prices. Competition is good.

  • When are we going to leave the parenting to actualy parents? I don’t have kids and, frankly, don’t like them. I don’t see why my freedoms should be limited because a school may or may not exist within 1000 feet of a grocery store.

    If schools and parents are doing their jobs correctly and supervising the children they chose to have and educate, then why do we need ordinances like this?

    Not a big fan of the nanny state.

  • But what would Wanda Adams Say?

    “Houston City Council Member Wanda Adams says she has a big concern about the neighborhood HEB in her district. Specifically, Adams says she’s talked with company officials who say the HEB on Scott and OST could soon move. Adams says the supermarket is land locked because of limited space and HEB would like to expand. She says that expansion could mean the store would move. Her fear is it could leave what some consider an already under served community without a major anchor grocery store. The Insite has contacted HEB for a comment about the possible move!”

    Too bad we lost her in district C. I’m not sure if she’s upset about the store or her reduced campaign funding from HEB.

  • For the most part, this article states the obvious, which was already commented on by fairly insightful readers in the previous Chronicle articles. What no one has mentioned is the child care business reported to be on the horizon, within 300 feet, which will block this forever. Sometimes you just have to go with a professional service to save money.

  • Churches should be taxed and treated as any other business.

  • The laws apply to non-religious schools, too. Seems really odd that HEB hadn’t figured this out in advance.

  • Hey, gang, no hate here, even though HEB planted this turd of a store in a space where it does not belong.

    I think it’s great to have a non-alcohol selling grocery establishment in the neighborhood. Fiesta has the best beer and wine selection anyway, and they’re right across the street.

    Besides, if the morons at HEB corporate didn’t see this coming, then screw ’em!

  • I’m inclined to agree that there is no way HEB could have walked into this problem on accident, after all, opening stores in neighborhoods is their entire business. On the other hand, nobody should have known these issues better than Spec’s, and the last I checked that store on Washington never opened.

  • “turd of a store”
    “morons at HEB corporate..”
    “screw ‘em!”
    Yup, no hate there :-)

  • Of course the “Holy Rollers” are going to put up a fight – it’s what they do when the aren’t out on the weekends drinking at bars, or serving wine in their homes. However, their little exercise has not stopped them from soliciting donations from HEB. Nothing buy hypocrits!

  • Specs on the WoW (Washington/Wescott) was open nearly a year, before some hypocritical ninnies from Crestwood decided to complain it was too close to Memorial Elementary. Was an awesome specs too, separate liquor and beer/wine/food. Because children attend tequila tastings apparently.

  • The Spec’s on Washington got permission for a liquor license & opened. Then the license was withdrawn & it had to close. http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2009/09/specs_on_washington_avenue_clo.php

    I believe there was special permission having to do with the amount of non-liquor items to be sold at the store. (I never made it there–alas–but the Big Spec’s has an excellent selection of fine food.)

    Saw the woman behind the drive to close Spec’s on TV. She lives in the neighborhood & it a appeared that she was agin’ everything happening on Washington. Spec’s was just the easiest target…

    Still think the HEB folks should have known better. Well, it’s good news for Fiesta!

  • bulldoze the school

  • @Markd: “…turd of a store…” Not sure what your criteria is for labeling HEB “a turd” but I have shopped at that Fiesta as well as when it was a Weingarten and a Safeway and I’d have to say “turd” is more applicable to THAT store rather than the shiny, new, clean HEB. Not only does the Fiesta have a persistent foul odor, I simply do not like the ‘mercado’ atmosphere that’s prevalent in every one of their stores. I’d suggest they change their litter box more often. Turd indeed.

  • Wow, it could be a win/win for everybody. HEB would do just fine without selling beer/wine and Fiesta could take up that slack, and maybe even try to get zoned for a Fiesta Liquor store!

    The HEB hate is pretty funny. I wonder if when the neighborhood store that is now Fiesta was opened 30 years ago if they hurt any of the Mom & Pop stores that used to be in Montrose? Ya think?

    We have a beautiful new business in Montrose and some people still complain.

  • I asked a good friend who has attended St. Stephen’s for over 40 years if they’re anti-alcohol. If he laughs much longer, I may have to call 911.

  • That HEB will still make money. But they knew what they were getting inot. Maybe they can open a small liquor store right at the 300 ft mark and run shuttle buses.

  • No hate, Cody.
    What you getting all so PCd wussified about? Don’t you get enough of that in your main stream media? This is just the free use of speech, you should get use to it.

    And MarketingWiz, the worst turds are the shiny, new, and clean turds,just like the new HEB. Especially when the alternative could have been non-turd. But being a MarketingWiz, of course you’d prefer shiny, new, and clean turds.

  • Is it that the property line has to be more than 300′ away? The property lines (to the closest school building) look to be 250′ apart. The building itself is certainly more than 300′ away

  • markd, what exactly do you think HEB should have put there?

  • @Markd: So that means you’re shiny, clean and new?

  • Xenophobia care of marketing wiz, the store has no smell at all, maybe if you’re dumpster diving.. Used to be my Dad’s central store when he was the district manager for Fiesta, God rest his soul. Maybe if something smells it’s time for some new deodorant, and uh yeah sorry there are Hispanics in Houston news flash….

  • Xenophobia? No. Hispanic people in Houston are not a foreign people. A better word for MarketingWiz’s attitude is “bigotry.”

  • Bigotry because I don’t like Fiesta? Wow, that’s a stretch. In the words of your moron leader: “What you getting all so PCd wussified about?”

  • I always find it interesting that the current crop of people in charge of our State’s government profess to be all for free markets, and proclaim their willingness to be “business friendly”. Yet they are perfectly willing to regulate economic transactions in which the product sold is not to their liking, and to make said businesses jump through hoops to satisfy their demands.

  • No, it’s the thinly veiled racial language. There are plenty of other reasons to dislike Fiesta so that in itself shows nothing.

    @shadyheightster: Pretty much everyone who talks about free markets is full of crap; what they mean is “markets with a set of biases that I happen to like.” Free markets exist in the same universe as the frictionless surface from all those physics problems. What we have, and always will, is organized and regulated markets. In this country, we like to pay lip service to minimal regualation, even while regulating to the benefit of whoever’s got the most influence at the moment – “free market” advocates included.

  • MarketingWiz, you getting sweet on me, or what?

    And Ross, what HEB should have put there, in my opinion, should be on scale with the rest of the neighborhood – that behemoth is not in scale with the neighborhood. That store would have been fine on Westheimer(West of Sheperd), Kirby, 59 feeder, Midtown, or lots of other places. Total Corporate EGO move on the part of HEB.

  • I must say that on occasion Fiesta has had a certain aroma, but it was like spilled, spoiled milk. It has not been noticeable lately and I still shop there.

  • And I doubt if anyone at St. Stephens cares if HEB is a little to close.

  • I say shut the school down or tax them to death.

  • Well it doesn’t matter what you guys think, because the land across the street may be a nice new mid rise apartment complex with fresh HEB customers. This is under negotiation. Bye bye Fiesta.

  • Isn’t the Randall’s on Westheimer and Shepherd(?) just right across the street from that huge St. Anne’s Catholic Store??

  • The following was determined from open records to set the record straight.

    The city certified that there is no church or private school within 300 feet of the store, by July 15. There was a hearing for protests by October 5 and a decision was made shortly after that.

    Again, the city certified that there were NO ordinance violations and it is in a wet area.

  • For the record. TABC violation in August. 738 administrative violation. Called place and manner.

    Spec’s received a license operated for a year and then city came back to say they had measured incorrectly. Spec’s closed store voluntarily. In litigation.
    HEB alcohol prices are higher than Fiesta and Spec’s for that matter.
    The city can make a complaint to the TABC but can not give a violation.
    The whole project is stinky. Putting a store across the street from another store is just a big guy throwing their weight around. How about how the land was acquired from Jay Cohen? This town needs planning and zoning.
    Does anyone here understand the concept of grandfathering? If the business was in operation before the law was enacted then they are exempt. So stores and bars that were around before the law are not effected.

  • St Anne’s, correct – Randalls @ Shepherd and Westheimer. My niece goes there.

  • “From Bob Thomas:
    The whole project is stinky. Putting a store across the street from another store is just a big guy throwing their weight around. ”

    HEB owns this city. They crushed their Neighbors and no one noticed or cared.

  • HEB does not own this city. That is a silly statement. They do crush their neighbors…with superior products, lower prices, and better service. It’s called capitalism and it fosters creativity and innovation. If Kroger, Fiesta, Safeway…ahem Randalls, etc. really wanted to play ball with them, they could. They are just lazy. All but a few of the Randalls stores in Austin are gone. Nothing but HEB is in San Antonio. There are no Albertsons left in Houston or San Antonio. A few months ago people were bitching about Wal-Mart. A few weeks ago it was Kroger at Studemont. What would you rather have, a great grocery store or a decrepit old run down apartment complex with junkies and squatters?

  • “What would you rather have, a great grocery store or a decrepit old run down apartment complex with junkies and squatters?”
    That’s uncalled for. Leave my apartment buildings out of this! :-)
    (I kid of course…)

  • Not those neighbors, the existing ones living next to the property. Yikes.

  • Heh, Cody we know you do good work, seen it with my own eyes. Some serious improvements around town, kudos.

  • as for “they do crush their neighbors…with superior products, lower prices, and better service.” does HEB pay you to say that or do you just have blinders on?

  • Again, not Fiesta or Wilshire. The residents – take a moment to read before you comment. Again. YIKES.

  • Chris Wise,

    I’m with Dan on this one. If you don’t think consumers choose H-E-B because of better services, prices, and product, why do you think consumers shop there? I’ve shopped at Kroeger, Randalls, Rice Epicurean, Whole Foods, Fiesta and H-E-B (and SuperTarget. Does that count?). Although all but Whole Foods are closer to my house, H-E-B is my store of choice (unless I’m running late and then I prefer Rice Epicurean because it’s so darn easy. And empty. Always) because I can get what I want for a good price and have a few munchies while I’m shopping. Does this mean I have blinders on too?

  • Whatever the case, I really wish the people at the end of Branard would stop parking right in front of the pedestrian gate. I’m not sure if this is some form of “silent protest”, but it’s really annoying for those in the neighbhorhood that would actually like to walk to a grocery store for a change. Sure, complaining about having to walk around to W Alabama might seem trivial, but that direct access is much more convenient than pushing a baby in a stroller an extra quarter of a mile over the crappy sidewalks in our ‘hood. For God’s sake, get over yourself and park on the side of the street…or, if that’s too much, at least park a few feet back so we can open the gate

  • Eric
    You have to call that in so they get fined for illegal parking. They’re not smart since some people will retaliate and damage their cars. This is a pedestrian neighborhood and what they’re doing is not respectable. CALL IT IN!

  • This is Houston. Cars trump pedestrians every time. Now stop walking on that sidewalk, I want to park there.

  • Eric

    Forgot to mention that the Pedestrian Gate is one of the few items that Scott McClelland gave to the neighbors. ENJOY !

  • Cody is not an asset to the neighborhood. Even though he fixed up properties on W Main, they are still neighborhood eyesores. Only way to get him to do things right is to call 311……

  • Mark, I’m sorry you feel that way. Whenever I’ve bought a building that was a known problem to a particular subdivision, I’ve tried to meet with the neighbors in advance to let them know what I was going to be doing to fix it up. I also would make sure to give everyone my cell number and e-mail so they could contact me if there were any problems during the remodel phase or even with new tenants. I’ve done this proactively specifically so I could be contacted directly to resolve a problems rather than having 311 come and slow things down by getting in the way. This has been the case with my properties on W. Main.
    I’m not sure who you are but I can be pretty sure I’ve never been contacted by you regarding any issue. I know 311 is 7 digits less than my number, but reach out if you have any issues. I’ve posted my e-mail a few times here (or get it from Gus)
    I also don’t know what property you might be talking about on W. Main of mine but everything I’ve bought on that street has been heavily fixed up. Perhaps not to the degree you’d like — or even I’d like — but I’m dealing with whatever funds I happen to have personally so I do the best I can.
    The first building I bought was a 6 unit (early last year?). It had a huge hole in the roof visible from the street, a side yard that was a jungle, and a front facing brick wall that needed major blasting and painting. I bought it and fixed all those issues — put on a brand new roof, landscaped, and blasted and repainted the front. One of these days I’ll put some before-and-after shots for anyone curious.
    More recently I bought some older 1940’s vintage fourplexes on West Main. I suspect these might be what you’re talking about. Two of them had their roofs literally caving into the top units before I bought them. Those roofs were replaced as soon as I closed. Heck, one of them I replaced *before* I closed (a bit risky as I would have rater waited till after closing, but that was the only way to make the deal happen). Another two units had ALL of their old original windows replaced. Those two were also complete repainted, re-landscaped, rear staircases re-done, and the two giant trees up front trimmed up. Many of the units have been upgraded to central AC to increase their cosmetics.
    The most recently purchased of those four fourplexes had been vacant for many years and had people illegally dumping (which I had been cleaning up BEFORE I owned it, since I owned the neighboring buildings). While you were calling 311 on the previous owner, I was hauling off piles of garbage left by others. That building also had people spray painting all over it, people squatting inside, etc. While you were calling 311 on the squatters, I was boarding up the windows to keep them out. After buying, I completely gutted the place, made it very nice inside, painted the outside, and it’s now leased out (with no more illegal dumping / tagging). My trash issue on that building from the city came when someone called 311 about trash (from the gutting / remodel) in the *back* yard UNDER a tarp. I actually have a photo (that I took) of 4 people from 311 coming by to take photos of my trash pile in the back that they had to lift up the tarp to photograph themselves. Obviously the city dropped that case when I showed them the photo I took (the pile was gone the next day anyway…)
    I’m not sure what else you’d want done. Perhaps you live in one of the newer townhomes on W. Main and just don’t like the older vintage 1940’s brick properties. That’s fine. Everyone has an opinion. You may find these things to be eyesores but I like them. Worry not… Many are getting knocked down to build new townhomes. However, some are being saved. Some of them could use additional fixing up but I’m sure most owners do their best to keep them nice as we have the market pressure of competing rentals to make sure we do our best.
    Sorry for the long post. I hope in the future you can find a way to get more involved in fixing up our neighborhood in ways OTHER than simply calling 311. I’d love to offer suggestions…

  • He posted in the ‘Skybar’ thread. 1842 and 1846 W. Main..

    Like you Cody, I wonder why he hasn’t tried talking to you personally.

  • Mark
    Maybe you would be happier living at 1756 W Main, where there might be a vacancy.

  • So was this a deal that just went bad as a reader suggested in his comment with the Chronicle?
    Houston Chronicle article “First peek at H-E-B’s huge new Montrose store”, where the comment post reads “Randy says:
    November 16, 2011 at 10:39 am
    this school has an unused temp building that they are using to extort a new building from HEB. HEB can not get their licquor license from the state until this is settled. “Saint” Stephens is counting on HEB cratering.”
    If you look at the documents filed with the TABC, which are public records, Randy may be on to something. We have collected the documents and inspected them fairly well. It does look suspicious, or at least interesting.
    Who is Randy and how did he come to that conclusion?

    We are posting the documents since this is so intriguing.

  • First, the idea that an Episcopal Church, or even school, are against booze is ridiculous. Where you find four Episcopalians, you will find a Fifth.

    I have heard two things, neither of which may be true. First, someone on the commission who approves such licenses and variances had a change of heart after indicating he would support this. Second, the school would like to make some kind of a deal on some property in exchange for a waiver. Maybe it’s a combination of both. But I figure if HEB is on board to pacify everyone with neat architecture, tree saving, and band pavillions, why not build a new building for the school on the land in question in exchange for making millions of dollars on sweet lady liquor? Booze, commerce, and religion — how Anglican can you get?

  • 1. It isn’t about booze. It’s about money. Randy suggests a liquor license trade for money.

    2. The ARA certified that there are no ordinance violations and HEB can legally receive a license to sell/serve alcohol. Nothing else is required. Protests were filed and the Judge ruled in favor of HEB.

    3. There is no discussion of a variance at this time, only a second hearing. Sorry, the article here is wrong with respect to a variance at this time.

    4. A second hearing will be held and the Judge will decide. The Judge will have to decide if he agrees that the Church property is outside of the 300 limit for HEB to receive an alcohol license.

    5. It depends on how the Judge decides as to what each party will do at that time.


    The puzzle remains.