Hours before the bill filing deadline on Friday, State Rep. Mayes Middleton (R–Wallisville) filed a bill to formally abolish the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The proposal would transfer TABC’s powers to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, resulting in one less Texas bureaucracy.
“TABC should facilitate the operations of small businesses, not strive to punish them and shut them down, ”said Middleton. “It did not fulfill its mission to help small businesses and should be abolished. TABC’s actions cost many their life savings. The agency threatened fines, penalties, and the loss of license to operate for many in Texas—all because they were trying to make a living.”
House Bill 4069 comes after numerous small businesses in Texas, including many bars, were destroyed, never to reopen again as a result of Gov. Greg Abbott’s lockdowns.
TABC has a history of scandals; officials have been caught using taxpayer money for trips to ritzy Hawaiian resorts, the commission misreported who drove its vehicles in 2017, and it has a cozy relationship with big beverage companies. The agency’s chairman, Kevin Lilly, owns the largest wealth management company in Texas and has been criticized for regulating companies that provide him profit.
Since the shutdowns last year, TABC has become been a lightning rod for anger and protests, with “51-percenters” (bar owners whose majority of profit comes from selling alcohol) forming a unified movement to challenge the edicts of TABC and Abbott. The 51-percenters also protested the harassment, intimidation, and violation of constitutional rights they endured at the hands of TABC agents.
Chris Polone, one of the 51-percenters and owner of The Rail Club Live, a live-music venue, had his permit suspended by TABC at a July 4 protest, has had his home raided by TABC officers, received citations and fines, had his account frozen by the Texas Comptroller, and received death threats after TABC posted video footage of another protest he held at the club.
Persecution did not hinder the 51-percent movement’s growth, however. The group has grown rapidly, holding more protests and directing more of the general public’s anger and disapproval of Abbott toward TABC.
A proposal put forward by the 51-percenters was to completely defund TABC, or at the very least, put a bar owner on the agency’s board.
While 51-percenters’ proposal demands the complete defunding of the TABC, shifting the agency’s authority to a local level, Middleton’s bill would abolish TABC entirely and shift its authority elsewhere.