TABC penalizing Cuvee Coffee Bar for use of crowler machine

Cuvee Coffee Bar is the only bar in Austin serving beer to go in crowlers. But the TABC is mandating the crowler system has to go.

Cuvee Coffee Bar was the only bar in Austin serving beer to go in crowlers. But the TABC is mandating the crowler system has to go.

UPDATE: Cuvee Coffee Bar has posted an official release about what founder Mike McKim aims to do in light of the TABC confiscating Cuvee’s crowler machine:

“Cuvee’s position has been, and continues to be, that the practice of filling and selling crowlers does not violate its TABC permit nor any provision of the alcoholic beverage code.

“Cuvee is a law abiding business, with good relations with TABC representatives. Our decision to continue using the crowler was driven by our desire to obtain a judicial ruling on our use of the crowler — a decision not uninvited by TABC representatives.

“As the press release acknowledges, we were simply exercising our right to petition the courts for a ruling. That can’t happen until a court obtains jurisdiction over this issue. The violation formally issued by TABC today begins that process. Importantly, it has always been our intention to cease use of the crowler once we received the notice of violation. Now that we have that, we’ll pursue a resolution of the matter with TABC, and the courts, as necessary.”

EARLIER: Well, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has come and taken it.

The crowler machine the TABC ordered Cuvee Coffee Bar to remove this summer, saying that it was a violation of Texas’ alcohol manufacturing laws, has been removed from the bar by TABC agents after their investigation into Cuvee’s use of the crowler machine. Crowlers are 32 oz. aluminum growlers that look like supersized cans.

“We know this issue is important to craft beer retailers and their customers… However, we do not support the continued violation of the law just because a retailer disagrees with it,” Dexter K. Jones, the TABC’s assistant chief for audit and investigations, said in a press release. “Cuvee Coffee ignored our repeated warnings and discussions, and that conduct resulted in TABC seizing the illegal equipment and subjecting its permit to a civil penalty. Other retailers who engage in illegal canning risk similar consequences.”

According to the TABC, Cuvee Coffee Bar — and any other place that doesn’t produce its own beer — can’t fill up a crowler, which Texas law interprets as a canned product. (Many in the craft beer industry, however, have argued that crowlers are recyclable alternatives to growlers, which are permitted in this state). The TABC originally approached Cuvee about removing the crowler machine on June 25, giving the coffee bar 30 days.

Needless to say, Cuvee didn’t exactly follow the rules.

Cuvee owner Mike McKim quickly decided that the best solution was to fight back — keeping the crowler machine front and center at his coffee bar’s East Sixth Street location.

“Come and Take It,” a new set of Cuvee T-shirts proclaimed. They started being sold so that Cuvee customers, many of them craft beer fans who love using crowlers as a way to take home beer, could show their support.

The T-shirts have also been a clever Texas-centric reference to the strategy McKim aims to take. In a Houston Press story a few weeks ago, he said that he and the TABC would likely go to court after he and Cuvee refused to pay any fines TABC would give them. “He sees this as a necessary step in getting the law changed,” according to the story.

That’s looking like what will happen. Now that the TABC has removed the crowler machine and issued the bar “an administrative violation,” Cuvee has two options: to pay the fine and stop selling crowlers or to contest the violation (and the law it’s based on) before a state judge. If McKim brings a second crowler machine into the bar, according to the press release, Cuvee would face even stricter penalties that could lead to cancellation of its alcoholic beverage permit.

He wasn’t the only owner of a bar that installed a crowler system in Texas, but he may be the only one who kept it around for so long after the TABC’s mandate. Even when the news broke in June about their dust-up, he had made up his mind about the next step.

“I think if I don’t do anything about this, just remove my crowler and that’s it, I think it could be disastrous not just for Texas’ beer community, but there could be a ripple effect nationwide, who knows,” he said at the time. “I can’t do nothing; that would be wrong.”


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