Restaurant Owners are Enjoying the Perks of 'No Memberships Needed'

Beer trucks making drop-offs, new businesses popping up, and those bright neon advertisements are the obvious changes since Angelina County went wet last November. But one of the more subtle changes is gradually happening in restaurants.

If you've been to any restaurant in Angelina County lately, you probably were not asked to pay for a membership. Because of the wet/dry election, they are no longer required for customers who go out for a drink.

Casa Ole' waitress, Kathy Brashear, said, "That was the major issue because most of the people are from big towns and it was just an inconvenience. They didn't understand that you would have to pay five dollars for a membership and then buy your first drink, so we'd end up getting a lot of disgruntled customers that would soon end up wanting to leave because they just did not understand the process."

Brashear said that would negatively reflect on her tips. She called the memberships an inconvenience for servers and customers and feels doing away with them means faster service and less paperwork for waitresses because there are now fewer requirements to serve.

Owner Dixon Shanks said, "As far as the day to day operation, there won't be a whole lot of difference. It mainly comes from the labor-intensive paperwork that the businesses are required to participate in, the fact that there are less regulations, etcetera, etcetera."

And since there are no longer membership fees for businesses that sell booze, there are no more fees for the public to pay. But not all Angelina County residents are happy the memberships are gone.

"The good thing about that is it's separate," said Dwyan Calvert. "It sets it all aside so a person like me that doesn't believe in drinking and does not drink, I don't have to imbibe, I don't have to be around it, I don't have to see it."

Others disagree and are looking forward to saving a few extra dollars at their favorite restaurants.

"That's a big plus right there because otherwise, you're spending your money on your food, on our drink, on your membership; or every time you come in you have to buy a membership if you go to a different place, so really, it makes it a lot easier," Stephanie Smith said.

Overall, business owners believe they won't lose money because they no longer have to charge for memberships, but will make money because more customers will choose their restaurants for a night on the town.

It may be a while before all restaurants do away with paid memberships. Many of them will not apply for the new mixed beverage permit until their current one is up for renewal.