ROUND ROCK, Texas -- The Round Rock Chamber is pushing for a change in alcohol laws in the city. July 12, a vote by city council could make it become a reality.
As of November 2017, 55 Texas counties are wet, six are dry, and everyone else falls somewhere in between, including Williamson County.
Business owners like Pete Pearson said that discrepancy hurts the bottom line.
"We would have people walk in the door realize we didn't have mixed beverages and they would walk back out, or just not even come at all,” said Pearson.
Pearson’s restaurant, Buffalo Wings and Rings, falls in a portion of Round Rock where restaurants can only serve beer and wine. About 80 percent of the city allows for maximum flexibility in terms of selling alcoholic beverages. The rest of the area has certain limitations.
In order to serve mixed drinks, they must open a “social club.”
"We needed it do it, we were losing a lot of ability to have revenue because we didn't have mixed beverages,” said Pearson. "We’re a sports bar, it's kind of weird that we can't serve mixed beverages."
Pearson said they pay $1,000 to $2,000 per month for their social club, and climbs to $20,000 a year for some businesses.
Pearson said customers get frustrated with giving their driver’s license information to the restaurant.
"Sometimes they won't come back, or they'll turn around and walk out, or refuse to just become a member because it just seems silly," said Pearson. "It's definitely a hindrance to us and our potential customers because it is weird."
But it’s not the same for everyone in the city limits. Some restaurants can serve beer, wine, and mixed drinks equally.
"Potentially, they could be a couple blocks away and not have that same issue,” said Pearson.
As a result, John Hatch and his company -- Texas Petition Strategies -- are collecting signatures to petition the issue of alcohol laws that will be on the November ballot in Round Rock.
"It's all hands on deck,” said Hatch. "It's funny, people think in terms of wet and dry, well Round Rock is wet, wet and damp.
He said Round Rock voters made the city wet in 1983.
"That effort only covers about 80 percent of the city, this would make one set of rules for the entire city,” said Hatch. "You've basically got this crazy quilt of boundary lines that change."
As they annexed land, there was another vote in 1987 and 2002. Since that last vote 16 years ago, the city has annexed more land but the "wet" and "dry" status that was applied before the annexation remained -- which created this peculiar breakdown.
"When the city annexes more land, the law doesn't go with it,” said Hatch. "As the City of Round Rock has grown over the years, just like Williamson County has, you have a lot of areas that are no longer, that are in the city limits today, that weren't years ago."
Hatch says they need 6,500 signatures by July 6. The Round Rock Chamber reported on July 10 that they submitted 10,000 signatures.
The Round Rock Chamber hired Texas Petition Strategies to gather signatures.
"No one wants to have this inequity between their competitor,” said Chamber President and CEO Mike Odom. "Our job is to represent and fight for these businesses that don't have this level playing field."
"It creates a very difficult form of economic development, it's hard for businesses because it puts them at an unfair disadvantage, where they're having to pay costs that their competitor across the street doesn't,” said Hatch.
"This has caused an unlevel playing field which we want to try to rectify,” said Odom.
It's a move that Pearson said would be refreshing -- like that cold drink.
"It lets us going back to just a restaurant and sports bar, that is on the same level playing field as all the other ones in town,” said Pearson.
The subject will now be an official agenda item at the city council meeting on Thursday, July 12.