Laws and Restrictions
An expat can find beer, wine and spirits without any problem, but there are very strict regulations as far as drinking is concerned and Texas’ laws are tough.
Underage drinking is illegal and defined as drinking while being under the age of 21 and not in the presence of a parent or legal guardian. An underage person is prohibited from purchasing any alcohol. Penalties may include fines, community service and loss of driver’s license. Having any amount of alcohol in the blood for under-21 year olds is an automatic DUI (driving under the influence) with heavy fines. When entering an establishment where alcohol is served, such as nightclubs or bars, or when purchasing alcoholic beverages, you may be asked to show a picture ID as proof being of legal age.
A DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) infringement in Texas is defined by driving with a blood alcohol level (BAL) of .08% or higher. Some people can reach this level by drinking two or three drinks within an hour, so awareness of consumption is highly recommended. Houston promotes a ‘designated driver’ program if you plan on consuming alcohol while being out. A ‘designated driver’ is a person who does not drink alcohol and drives everyone home. There is a high awareness of drunk driving with signs stating ‘Drink, drive, go to jail’ at gas stations and on freeway billboards. Police controls are also increased during peak times. Penalties include fines, community service and loss of driver’s license. Texas is very tough on DUIs; killing someone while driving under the influence may constitute a murder charge.
The hours for sales of alcoholic beverages are also strictly regulated. Most stores stop selling beers, wine and spirits at midnight and cabinets and coolers will be locked. They will reopen at 7 am in the morning Monday through Saturday and 12 pm noon on Sundays. Nightclubs and bars will serve alcohol until 2 am and will forewarn their customers by announcing the ‘Last call for alcohol’.
If you venture outside of Houston, you may encounter counties where the sale of alcohol is prohibited by local laws. These counties are called ‘dry’ counties. To be able to sell alcohol in restaurants in these counties, the owners will make you sign a membership card to become part of a private organization in which they are able to sell you alcohol. The private organization is mainly for paper documentation purposes. The closest area is southeast of Houston with Galena Park, which is completely dry and Deerpark, which is partly wet/dry.
Where to Buy Wine and Alcohol
- Spec’s, 713-526-8787 or 1-888-526-8787 – http://www.specsonline.com (Mo – Sat Sat 10 am – 9 pm)
This is by far the largest selection of wine and spirits as well as international food specialties in the Houston area with several locations inside and outside the Loop.
- World Market, 713-963-8833, http://www.worldmarket.com
Large international selection of wines as well as international food specialties.
5125 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77056 (Galleria area)
- Most grocery stores also carry wine and beer (but no spirits or liquors)
An expat can also enjoy or taste wines in one of the many wine bars in Houston. Besides just enjoying a casual evening with friends or co-workers and a glass of wine, it is recommend to sign up for a mailing list to be informed about specific wine tastings and events.
- Wine Styles, 281-257-9463 – http://www.winestyles.net/louetta
10300 Louetta Rd. Houston, TX 77070
- Cha Campagne and Wine Bar, 713-807-0967 –http://www.chahouston.com/
810 Waugh Dr, Houston, TX 77019
Texas is home to many wine growers and has quite a few wineries. Most are located in the Hill Country area 2 – 3 hours from Houston with over 50 wineries but there are about 30 some local wine growers as well.
Vineyards and Wineries:
- Bernhardt Winery, 936-894-9829 – http://www.bernhardtwinery.com
9043 County Road 204, Plantersville, TX 77363-7521
- Circle S Vineyards, 281-265-9463 – http://www.circlesvineyards.com
9920 Hwy. 90A, #B-268, Sugar Land, TX 77478
- Haak Vineyards & Winery, 409-925-1401- http://www.haakwine.com
6310 Ave. T, Santa Fe, TX 77510
- Pleasant Hill Winery, 979-830-8463 – http://www.pleasanthillwinery.com
1441 Salem Rd, Brenham, TX 77833
- Salud Winery, 713-522-8282 – http://www.saludwinery.com
3939 Montrose, Houston, TX 77006
- Wimberley Valley Winery Tasting Room, 281-350-8801 – http://www.wimberleyvalleywinery.com
206 Main Street, Spring, TX 77373
October is Texas Wine Month but there are wine festivals throughout the year (mainly in the Hill Country area):
- The grand Wine and Food Affair, http://www.thegrandwineandfoodaffair.com, is held locally in Sugar Land (April 27 – May 01, 2011)
- Texas Hill Country Wineries – 866-621-9463 http://www.texaswinetrail.com/index.html for wine trails in the Hill Country
- Check Haak Vineyards & Winery http://www.haakwine.com/events/event_schedule.php for more in the Houston area and Hill Country