The dust continues to fall following recent reports that two local restaurants have returned, proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for in-person meals after being informed that such measures violated Texas Senate Bill 968.
Following Austin‘s decision earlier this month to Step 5 local precautions in the event of a pandemic, sister restaurants by Fresa and Laundromat briefly asked customers to provide proof of vaccination for indoor meals. A few days later, however, the establishments announced that they had ended these requirements after receiving a word from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission that their policies were not authorized under Article 14 of SB 968 (“No mask, no Vax, no entry? The battle between local and state leaders continues,” News, August 20).
The bill prohibits private companies from requiring proof of vaccination to enter or provide services, and also clarifies that the appropriate state agency – which is TABC in the case of restaurants and bars – may require the compliance with these provisions as a condition of obtaining a license, permit or other authorization from the State. No Texas company licensed by TABC has had its license canceled or suspended due to non-compliance with SB 968 as of Aug. 17, a TABC spokesperson told us. The agency has been made aware of three licensed locations in the Austin area for issues related to SB 968, including the aforementioned restaurants and the Supreme theater. According to the spokesperson, TABC contacted representatives of each of the establishments and all agreed to comply with the law. They added, “TABC has never threatened to withdraw a company’s liquor license for non-compliance with SB 968, and it was not our policy to do so.”
But never say never. The agency spokesperson said any license cancellation or suspension is a “last resort following multiple violations.” Even then, the company would still be entitled to a hearing to challenge TABC’s decision. “While TABC has a duty to uphold the law, we want businesses to understand that the agency will strive to help them operate safely while complying with SB 968. The agency’s goal n It is not to penalize companies, but rather to provide them with the opportunity to voluntarily comply before any further action is required. “