Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill

An Applebee’s employee places letters on a marquee announcing a New Year’s Eve party at the Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar on Dec. 27, 2011, in Copperas Cove.

Chain restaurants might have several reasons why they haven’t moved to Copperas Cove in the past, but the right to sell alcohol probably isn’t one of them, officials said.

Copperas Cove businesses have the right to sell beer and wine for on- and off-premise consumption but not mixed drinks or liquor.

“If a popular restaurant looked at Copperas Cove and passed over it because of our alcohol regulations, we may never know,” said Polo Enriquez, executive director of the city’s Economic Development Corporation. “We haven’t really had an issue of any restaurant or a food-serving place when it comes to alcohol.”

Enriquez said there is more than likely other factors at play than the right to sell alcohol.

“No one has come to us and said that it is just too hard to open a club, a bar or a restaurant in this town,” said Betty Price, president of the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.

Despite the city not having the right to sell mixed beverages for on-site consumption, there are ways around the law, such as operating the establishment as a private club.

Applebee’s and Casa Ole both have liquor licenses as private clubs to sell mixed drinks, according to documents from the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission. The practice is common and the district, in which Copperas Cove is regulated, contains many such facilities, the TABC website stated.

TABC District 2 “is known as the Private Club Capital of the State, hosting more private clubs than any of the other four districts,” the website stated. “With attitudes still present from the days of Prohibition, the sale of alcoholic beverages is still illegal in many parts of Northeast Texas.”

The district is composed of 62 counties, including Dallas, Tarrant, Denton, Bell and Lampasas counties. It is harder for businesses to operate as private clubs because they have to provide more records, said Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for the TABC. The clubs have to elect members to positions and businesses need a whole other entity to apply for the club status.

Traditionally, club status is what you have at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post, she said. A nonprofit entity is running the bar.

Those establishments are technically not selling alcohol to their members; they give the alcohol away, and members pay for another service. Many commercial businesses operate this way.

Enriquez said the EDC has not actively sought to attract businesses that sell alcohol. It has focused on job creation and local business retention projects. He speculated about why some chains haven’t come to Cove.

“I don’t know what those reasons are, but right off the bat, I think availability of a site may be an issue,” he said.

Before the Five Hills shopping center, space for chain restaurants along U.S. Highway 190 was limited. Companies may need to put several smaller lots together to have enough space for parking and other features needed for larger restaurants, Enriquez said.

Other factors that may drive restaurants to locating in certain areas are median incomes, rooftop and traffic counts and pass-through traffic, Enriquez said. He said he believes Copperas Cove rates favorably in these areas.

Changes in Gatesville

Gatesville, where residents recently approved allowing the sell of mixed drinks for on-premise consumption, only has one business pending a liquor license for on-site consumption with the TABC, according to its documents.

Generally, a couple of months is not enough time to see if regulation changes allowing the sale of alcohol has attracted commercial businesses to the area, Beck said.

Residents of Sherman County, which recently went all wet, also were asking why they haven’t seen several alcohol-related facilities open since their new measures passed, Beck said. It could take one, two or maybe even three years for a business to secure property and finances to construct a facility if alcohol was even a reason.

About seven stores in Gatesville received licenses to sell beer and wine for off-premise consumption, TABC documents stated. Those include H-E-B and several convenience stores.

Price said those types of stores in Copperas Cove also moved quickly to start selling beer and wine when residents approved the measure for the city in 2005.

Those opposing the election thought the number of beer and wine shops would consume the commercial areas, Price said.

“There was a thought that there was going to be numerous beer and wine stores throughout the community, and I think most citizens know that has not happened,” she said.

Contact Mason W. Canales at or (254) 501-7474

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