Ready-to-drink cocktail beverages may soon be available for purchase seven days a week in Texas, depending on the outcome of two similar bills under consideration by the state legislature.
State Senator Kelly Hancock (R-Ft. Worth) filed SB 1288 on February 28, and Representative Justin Holland (R-Rockwall) filed HB 2200 on February 13. The bills are aimed at making certain spirit-based beverages available on Sundays.
In Texas, hard liquor sales are prohibited on the first day of the week. Under current state law, liquor stores are closed on Sundays, and grocery and convenience stores can only sell beer and wine on that day.
Both bills refer to the beverages under consideration as “spirit coolers,” which are described as alcohol or spirits combined with plain, carbonated, or sparkling water or juice and containing between .5% and 17% alcohol content by volume.
These ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails have been growing in popularity in recent years, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns. A report released last fall by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), a trade association, said that during 2020-2021, sales revenue for RTD cocktail beverages increased by 42%.
DISCUS President and CEO Chris Swonger told Forbes that the pandemic helped the ready-to-drink market grow, as consumers wanted easy access to the drinks they could no longer get at bars.
In addition, the report stated that 86% of respondents in a recent poll, both consumers and non-consumers of RTD spirit-based beverages, wanted greater access to these types of drinks.
An analysis by Grandview Research projected that the market for RTD cocktails would “expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.4% from 2022 to 2030.”
In a statement from DISCUS, obtained by The Dallas Morning News, Sen. Hancock remarked, “As industries innovate and new products become staples in the marketplace, it only makes sense for us to take a look at ways government can reduce regulatory red tape.”
The trade association Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas (WBDT) opposes the bills, which the organization said would allow employees as young as 16 to sell hard liquor. The organization’s president, Tom Spilman, stated in an email to The Dallas Morning News that there “is no great consumer demand to make this drastic change.”
The long-standing ban against selling hard liquor on Sundays has been in place since 1935. The state legislature enacted the ban following the federal government’s repeal of Prohibition in 1933.
In 2019, a bill was proposed in the state legislature to allow liquor stores to open on Sundays and to extend their operating hours Monday-Saturday by two hours, but that bill eventually fizzled out.
However, liquor laws loosened a bit during the pandemic with new legislation that allowed stores to sell beer and wine two hours earlier on Sundays and restaurants to serve cocktails to-go.