HOUSTON - A group in the Heights is moving forward with its effort to change the neighborhood’s liquor laws.
Alcohol sales have been prohibited within the boundaries of the original Heights neighborhood since 1912. Businesses get around the rule by operating as private clubs.
“Especially if they don’t live in the neighborhood, people don’t know that it’s a dry area. When we ask them for their driver’s license and swipe them into the club, it’s often met with a lot of surprise. They say, 'Gosh, that’s really a rule? It’s 2016,'" said Alli Jarrett, owner of Harold’s in the Heights. “There’s zero bonus. It costs more to operate. It costs more to do business.”
While some people think the Prohibition-era law gives the Heights its character, others say it poses problems for bigger businesses, like grocery stores.
That’s why a group, called the Houston Heights Beverage Coalition, has worked with H-E-B to rally enough support to get a proposed change on the November ballot.
The proposal only impacts grocery stores, and it would allow the sale of beer and wine for off-site premises.
“This is all about improving the quality of life here in the Heights, giving the people who live here the choices and opportunities people have everywhere else in Houston, and giving us a new opportunity for jobs and development right here in our neighborhood,” said Steve Reilley, Houston Heights Beverage Coalition.
Only about 10,000 people who live in the dry area will be eligible to vote.
H-E-B says it will only open a location in the Heights if the measure is approved.
“My number one selling category in the entire store is wine. Wine is profitable for us. For us to open a big store and not be on an equal footing with our competition causes a problem,” said Scott McClelland, President of H-E-B Houston.
Even though the proposal would not impact restaurants or bars in the dry area, business owners think it’s a step in the right direction.
“Many people haven’t known, especially in greater Houston, that this even existed anymore. I think it’s good to keep issues like this relevant, so we can all make the best decision for businesses as we move forward. Certainly for neighbors and neighborhoods as we move forward,” said Jarrett.