Residents living in Houston Heights seem primed to chip away at a rule that was solidified over a century ago when the Heights was annexed – the prohibition of alcohol sales for off-premise consumption.

Thanks to the successful petition efforts of a citizen group – The Houston Heights Beverage Coalition – area residents may get the chance to vote in favor of ending the regulation this November.

In 1912, when the City of Houston Heights was still an independent entity, residents voted in favor of becoming a dry town. Houston Heights was annexed by the City of Houston in 1918 with one of the agreed upon terms being that Houston Heights keep its “dry” ordinance in place, even though the City of Houston was not dry. For those unaware, “dry” simply means an area has regulations that limit or completely prohibit the sale of alcohol.

In a 1933 case the Texas Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether the annexation into the City of Houston meant that Houston Heights was no longer forced to comply with the previous 1912 vote. The Supreme Court ruled that the annexation did not overrule the vote and the Heights was to remain dry.

Today, some residents are saying that being prohibited from selling liquor off-premise is hindering their economic development prospects and discouraging businesses from coming to the area. Businesses seem to agree, the petition has the full support and backing of H-E-B because, if passed, it would allow beer and wines sales in supermarkets and convenience stores.

But, contrary to some concerns, if the coalition is successful it wouldn’t completely end the dry rule in that part of town. Hard liquor sales would still be prohibited and bars and restaurants would still need to utilize a private club end around they have been using to sell liquor. By using this loophole, patrons have to sign a form, submit an ID, and become a “member” in order to be served mixed beverages, beer, or wine while at a bar or restaurant.

The petition garnered over 1,700 signatures in just three weeks, and is currently under review by Houston City Secretary Anna Russell. According to the Secretary’s office the petition, “is being verified and when completed a report will be provided to the Mayor.” The mayor and council would then prepare the ballot question to appear on area ballots November.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.