New app from Texas alcohol regulators draws mixed reaction from SA's craft beer industry
By W. Scott Bailey

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is rolling out new technology that will make it easier for people to share concerns about adult beverage businesses and their customers. The state agency is introducing a new smartphone app officials said will enable users to help promote public safety by reporting breaches of the peace and other incidents that occur inside such businesses.

TABC:Mobile, which is now available for Apple iOS and Android smart devices, enables users to file complaints against TABC-licensed businesses for alleged violations, including the serving of alcohol to minors and intoxicated customers or employees. Also, it uses GPS technology to share with users the location of nearby establishments licensed by the agency, as well as information about businesses that have applied for a new liquor license or permit

While some business owners doubt there will be widespread adoption of the app, critics warn that the TABC is headed down a precarious path

“The new app put out by TABC is concerning to us as retailers because TABC is encouraging consumers to report breach of law even though the consumer is not trained or educated in the matter,” said Rob Martindale, founder of Big Hops, a local chain of craft beer pubs. “This is a real problem for small business owners that must spend time, money and effort to investigate, report and conference with TABC officials regarding incorrect, malicious and even fraudulent reports.”

TABC spokesman Chris Porter said in a statement that the new app will serve as a “direct line of communication” between the agency and app users “from anywhere at any time.”

Porter said one of the app's features enables users to search for new beer and liquor establishments in their city.

Angel Tomasino, a San Antonio lawyer who works with craft beer businesses, said he expects that’s how most people will use the new TABC app.

“I don’t feel the ability to file a complaint with the app will have much impact on licensed businesses,” he said. “The vast majority already operate within the bounds of the alcoholic beverage code and the specific provisions of their licenses or permits.”

Martindale, who told me he was not notified by the TABC about the new app, said he is concerned that the agency is looking to treat entrepreneurs such as him “as though we are criminals waiting to be caught and punished instead of small business owners creating jobs and paying taxes in a regulated industry.”