Legal Department

How to Protest a Liquor License Requests

The City of Houston has helped many civic groups and individuals protest the issuance of permits to sell alcohol at businesses that are a nuisance to the community. These guidelines are meant to help citizens develop solid evidence of existing problems for an effective protest, and to outline the protest process.

Letters of protest should be directed to The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Office, 427 W. 20th, phone 713.426.7900. TABC can tell you the name of the applicant, the type of permit(s), the expiration date of their existing permit(s) and the address of any other businesses they operate that sell alcohol.

For an original permit, a protest usually focuses on the negative effect a proposed business could have on the surrounding area particularly if it is close to a residence, church, school, hospital, day-care facility or social service facility. School crossing zones, bus shelters, parks, recreation centers and other factors can also be considered. Citizens should send a letter of complaint to the Mayor or a Member of Council as soon as they become aware of the business - before it opens.

To protest the renewal of an existing permit, the evidence must be more exact. The most effective evidence citizens can give is eyewitness accounts of offenses that occurred on the licensed premises. The following are the most common offenses cited:

  • Drug use or sales on the premises
  • Prostitution
  • Gambling
  • Alcohol sales to minors
  • Minors in possession of alcohol

(Contact the Houston Police Department / Vice Division at 713.308.8600 if you witness any of these five above.)

  • Fighting, assaults, gunfire or other violent acts
  • Verbal or physical harassment of patrons or passersby
  • Littering
  • Public urination and indecent exposure
  • Consistently loud music, noise, yelling and profanity
  • Reckless and drunken driving by patrons
  • Public intoxication
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Carrying Weapons
  • Drinking on the premises - unless their permit allows it
  • Any other city, state or federal violations

The most common permits are:

  • Beer and Wine sales for on-premise consumption (e.g., a bar)
  • Beer and Wine sales for off-premise consumption (e.g., a convenience store)
  • Mixed Beverage sales as well as Beer and Wine
  • Late Hours License to sell alcohol between midnight and 2 a.m.
  • Package Store Permit

Your eyewitness testimony about specific incidents is very important to a successful protest. You should document the date and time of the incident or offense and where it happened on the premises. List these incidents in a letter of complaint to the Mayor or your Council Member. You may be asked to sign an affidavit explaining the complaint.

The Mayor's Office will work with the Legal Department to determine if the complaints meet the standards for protest. If it does, an official letter of protest will be prepared. It is extremely important that citizens keep all documentation related to their complaint - and attend the protest hearing.

Protests of original applications and renewals for beer and wine permits are heard by a Master appointed by the County Judge. The city's lawyers and its witnesses present their case at the hearing and may be cross-examined by the applicant and their lawyers, who they present their case.

Frequently Called Phone Numbers
Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s Houston Office (713.426.7900)
Houston Police Department’s Vice Division (713.308.8600)
Harris County Clerk’s Office (713.755.6411)