Some Bexar County bars reclassify themselves as restaurants in order to reopen

'It’s been such a struggle just to stay alive and not have to close down permanently.'

San Antonio – Some Bexar County bars are beginning to reopen under a new classification, thanks to some changes by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

Business owner Doug Ackerly owns eight bars in the area. He’s reopened two successfully and is now in the process of reopening a third, thanks to the state changes.

“It’s been such a struggle just to stay alive and not have to close down permanently,” he said.

He’s urging bar owners to look into the process so that they too can get back to business.

“The small guys need it more than anyone. I mean, we have food. Come in and order food — that’s what we’re asking,” Ackerly said.

Bars with full kitchens now have two options: They can apply for a Food & Beverage Certificate or submit an Alcohol Sales Reporting Affidavit. The bars must be able to show TABC that they can generate more than 51% of their sales from food than alcohol or show proof that the sales from the previous months have been more from food than alcohol.

Chris Porter, spokesperson for TABC, said there’s some guidelines that need to be followed, and he urges bars owners to contact their local TABC office.

“There needs to be a permanent kitchen facility on the premises that can take a number of different forms,” he said. Some are also allowed to partner with food trucks to provide that food service.

“If you operate as a restaurant, you have to be willing to serve food for your entire opening hours,” Porter said. “You can’t serve food from, you know, 8 to 9 p.m., then serve alcohol the rest of the time. That would essentially make you a bar.”

Porter said TABC will audit and monitor sales for those operating bars to ensure their alcohol sales don’t exceed more than 51% of their total sales. Those who don’t comply could face a license suspension, he said.

RELATED: TABC says it will shut down bars, revoke licenses if they remain open despite Gov. Abbott’s closure order

Porter said statewide, about 400 or the 600 requests for food and beverage certificates have been granted. There’s been a lot of interest in the process.

“We do want to reassure folks that TABC is conducting operations, between 1,000 to 2,000 inspections every week. So far, we’ve conducted approximately 10,000 of these since since the end of June and we’ve found about 60 violations [statewide],” he said. “I think that points to the fact that most business owners in most restaurants know what needs to be done, and they’re doing the very best to keep the people of Texas safe.”

Bars that reopen as restaurants must follow the state and county safety guidelines and social distancing requirements.

To report a bar or restaurant not in compliance, call 888-THE-TABC.

City of San Antonio officials said they are aware of the reclassification of these bars to restaurants and there are concerns. Mayor Ron Nirenberg said he doesn’t want the community to become complacent.

“It’s incumbent upon those business owners and those patrons to follow those guidelines so that we can continue to open things and stay safe,” he said. “Those business owners that are doing that, we want to thank them for doing that.”

RELATED: Coronavirus update San Antonio, Aug. 13: 218 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Bexar County

About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

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