Many West U residents have raised questions regarding how Matthew’s Market, 3630 University Blvd., can give away alcohol without a liquor license.
The discussion started on InstantNewsWestU after city council approved an ordinance to allow the consumption and sale of alcohol at the recreation center for the Harris County Mayors and Councils Association meeting on Aug. 19. To read the city council story, click here.
Many of the comments on InstantNewsWestU led to questions being raised about Matthew’s Market reportedly giving alcohol away for a “donation.” These are some of the comments that were made:
“Matthew’s Market is a great establishment that my wife and I and daughter have really enjoyed. I just do not understand when on the one hand, Jim Reid has created an extremely kid friendly etablishment, but on the other he feels he must have alcohol for a “donation”.
“Did West University grant Matthew’s Market a waiver to distribute free alcohol within the allotted distance to a school [MM is about 30 – 40 feet away from HISD property] and if so when? Is MM (still) asking for donations, and if so does this go against the TABC’s provision, below?
“Don’t even get me started on the “donation”; the TABC likely would not approve of the donation request.”
The questions were directed to Mayor Bob Kelly who posted this comment on InstantNewsWestU:
“The City Attorney will address at the Council meeting August 9th your questions about wine being at MM. Please sign up at the meeting to speak and ask your questions to the entire Council.”
Following Kelly’s comment addressing resident’s concerns about Matthew’s Market, he posted this comment:
“I have been informed that the Little Mat alcohol matter will not be on the agenda for August 9th, but will be a separate agenda later when and if Little Mat applies for an alcohol permit. As such, citizens can make comments to Council Members about the topic, but Council will not be able to respond. Any questions regarding MM and alcohol can be addressed now to the City Manager for comment.”
Matthew’s Market has not applied for an alcohol permit with the city, City Manager Michael Ross said.
Laws regarding alcohol within 300 feet of the elementary school do not apply to Matthew’s Market because they do not have a liquor license, Ross said.
They would need an alcohol variance approved by council if they had an alcohol permit, he said.
Owner Jim Reid did not return messages seeking comment, but InstantNewsWestU will update this story if he does.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission addresses the issue of giving away alcohol without a permit on its website. This is what the TABC states:
“It is legal to provide free alcoholic beverages without a permit. However, to be truly “free,” it must be available to any adult who walks in the door and requests it. If alcoholic beverages are only available to paying customers, the assumption is that the cost of the alcohol is included in the price of the service. This constitutes a sale of alcoholic beverages, and a TABC permit would be required. When you provide the alcoholic beverage, there cannot be any expectation of receiving money. You cannot ask for a “donation” or “tip.” If the drinks will only be available to paying guests, then you will need a permit.
“Some examples: A wedding reception with free drinks is really free. A boutique that serves free wine while you shop, even if you don’t buy anything, is really free. A nail salon with a “free” drink when you pay for a manicure is not really free. If you buy tickets to attend a charity ball and they serve “free” drinks, those are not really free. If a tip jar sits next to a keg of beer expecting “donations,” the beer would not be considered free.”
InstantNewsWestU looked into Matthew’s Market giving away margaritas for a donation, but didn’t see a sign or jar indicating a “tip” or “donation” requirement.
The margarita machine sits behind the counter of Matthew’s Market and is not self serve.
Lt. Marc Decatur with the TABC said the law does not require businesses to disclose whether or not something is free.
“If it’s truly free, anyone could come and get one,” he said.
Decatur said oftentimes restaurants will give away alcohol for free when they first open because their license or permit may not be done in time. Restaurants often have alcohol included in their business plan and use free alcohol as a business strategy to bring in customers, he said.
Most people don’t think about whether or not a restaurant has an alcohol permit because as part of our culture “we all expect to drink our beer or wine or whatever with our meal,” Decatur said.
West U Residents Raise Questions About Matthew’s Market Operating Without A Liquor License
WU parent says
While I am not for or against this issue- I have not given it enough thought yet- I have been to MM on many occasions. Each and every time I have been there the person behind the counter asks directly for (and with vigor) a donation in consideration of the “free” alcohol being served. I have seen one occasion where the man getting his beer only had a dollar to ‘donate’ and the counter person admonished him for such a small amount.
Mayor Bob Kelly says
The West U City Manager set forth the below in a recent reply to a inquiry concerning any alcohol problems at Little Matt’s.
“At the City’s request, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) recently checked Mathews Market (Little Matt’s) for violations and found none. Anyone that witnesses an apparent violation should contact the City’s Police Department immediately. They will take a statement and file a criminal case with the Harris County District Attorney’s office.”
To date no such statment as been given to our Police Dept.
I was there for lunch with my daughter 6 months ago. A woman ahead of me in line asked the teenage clerk how much were the margaritas. The clerk said they were free but donations were expected. I was surprised to see this for two reasons. One, why is alcohol being given away for donations. Second, why are there teenagers serving alcohol. I’m sure by now with all the press attention, this activity has hopefully stopped.
WU Parent with Kids says
Why did MM have to resort to the ‘free with donation’ gimmick anyway? It does not seem to be the path of least resistance for them, so I would imagine that they did not believe they would have been granted a waiver if they had applied – but why not if Tiny Boxwoods got one? Is there some animus against that particular owner by the city?
Mayor Bob Kelly says
Under the West U City Charter and law, I have no authority to send the Police anywhere. Heck, I can’t even get a stop sign up. Action directed to the City Manager by either the Mayor and/or Council Members takes a majority vote of Council. I would suggest you address your police undercover suggestions with the City Manager. You can also address City Council at our meetings on the second and forth Mondays of the month. The next meeting is Mon, Aug 23rd. I would say that I have been in Little Matts a few times over the past several months and have not seen anyone even drinking wine or beer….of course my visits there have been for Sunday breakfast and lunch during the week.
Per my comments above, the City Manager has stated that the TABC has checked out the situation (it is my understanding that they do go in undercover) and he has given our citizens a method to address the situation by filing a statement with the Police. In fact, I would have to do the same if I saw a violation.
West University Teen says
I personally love the way this is set up. I know most, if not all of the kids working at the counter, and I’m even good enough friends with some of them that I can stop by around 9 when MM is closing and they’ll give me free booze. Hell, most of them help themselves to Margaritas once Jimmy’s gone. The West University Police are more concerned as to catching whoever’s been stealing bikes lately, or sending 3 squad cars out to round up a bunch of 12 year olds out past curfew. If the West University police had the same followthrough with checking on what goes on at MM, as they do with insuring that no child rides a bike without a helmet on, then perhaps we’d have less kids with access to cheap mixed drinks. And to think, at one point I had to go all the way to Skeeters to get Margaritas.
West U Teenager says
I saw the other article, specifically your request for me to take this matter up with my parents.
I’m going to simply respond with a no, seeing as how you’re powerless in this situation, since I have anonymity on my side.
Go help open a park.
why do people care so much? Adults can go to MM and get a beer or wine or margarita for a donation..or they can go 20 ft north and get the same thing at Edloe Street Deli, but for a price.
MM is a neighborhood place that seems to have a very good atmosphere. Why all the hand wringing amongst the locals?
Dan the Man says
How about the fact the law requires businesses that sell alcohol to have a licence. Or that Little Matt’s caters to kids, not adults like Tiny Boxwoods ar Edloe Deli. Or maybe the fact they don’t pay any taxes or pay the cost of a liquor permit like the law requires. And finally, how about the fact that it has been reported that high school kids are serving the booze. Mark, are you fine with all this?
Mayor Bob Kelly says
Again, take the City Manager up on his offer to those who witness violations to give the Police a statement. Again, to date no one has filed such a statement. If the TABC is not seeing the violations that you are, then file the statement.
Anonymous Mom says
Am I the only one who does not think, “Good for them”? It’s a bit silly for one establishment to be grandfathered in, but no one else to be given a license to serve alcohol. The fact that it is close to the school really does not appear to be an issue, given Edloe Deli is the same proximity. Little Matts does cater to kids, but doesn’t Skeeters? Given they are not in West U, but one cannot ignore the fact that many places cater to kids AND serve alcohol. As a mom, I welcome the chance to relax with other parents or my spouse over a glass of wine in a West U establishment. Are we saying we’re incapable of being responsible with our alcohol consumption? Do you not have a drink at home when your kids can see? Are we really so puritan and archaic that we can’t do it in public?!?
I really would like to hear Jim Reid’s reponse to all these comments. I really hope he stops giving away alcohol for now for a donation and ensures that teens are not serving alcohol.
WU Parent with Kids says
Some chuckecheese’s and many private 2 year old’s birthday parties have beer/wine available – perhaps West U can regulate those as well then. I’d be a lot more worried about the proximity to the school if it was a high school and not an elementary school. I dare say fake ID’s just aren’t that good.
West U Teen with Parents says
You’d be surprised at how the kids serving the liquor at Matthew’s don’t actually ID.
“How about the fact the law requires businesses that sell alcohol to have a licence. Or that Little Matt’s caters to kids, not adults like Tiny Boxwoods ar Edloe Deli. Or maybe the fact they don’t pay any taxes or pay the cost of a liquor permit like the law requires. And finally, how about the fact that it has been reported that high school kids are serving the booze. Mark, are you fine with all this?”
1. They are not selling alcohol so no need to have license.
2. LM is a restaurant not a kid restaurant (it is not chuck-e-cheese)
3. They don’t sell alcohol, so no taxes..another mute point
4. The only possible good point you have in you entire post – I’ll give you that one.
West U Parent says
Well Mark, here’s the fallacies of your arguments:
1) They are not selling the booze, which you are correct on. They instead have a system in which a 16 year old is handing out “free” liquor and then prodding for a “donation”. I happen to know quite a few of the kids working the counter, and they use to receive the “donations” as a tip. However, Mr. Reid has abolished this system and has been keeping these so called “donations”. Now until I have proof that Mr. Reid is using these “donations” for something other than buying more liquor, he is breaking the law.
2) You are correct again, Little Matts is not a kid’s restaurant. However, I’ve noticed some similarities between the two. Such as: Both have gaming systems that are used by children. Both serve children’s food and candy. But there is one main difference between the two: In order to get into Chuck E. Cheese you have to be with someone over 21. Which means the kids are supposed be supervised, and so that teenagers can’t get in and run amok. However, at Matthews, there is no supervision requirement, which means any West University teen’s can mosey on in there and grab a margarita, assuming it’s after 8 o’clock (that’s when all authority figures check out and the 16/17 year old workers are left on there own to close up.)
3) They don’t “sell” the alcohol so they can’t tax it. Taxes are there for a reason, such as to pay for the new Colonial Park pool, and the new multi million dollar Rec Center that have just been built, and are going to plague our neighborhood with taxes for years to come.
4) I predict Gardener is so “bent out of shape” about them “giving away” a glass of wine, beer, or margarita, because by law, they are not allowed to. If they were to take the proper steps to obtain a liquor license, I would have no problem with this. But what you’re saying is equivalent to “Why wouldn’t I let my 8 year old drive? He’s very mature for his age and it makes things easier for me.”
Why isn’t breaking the law a big deal to you?
Why are you so bent out of shape about them giving away a glass of wine, beer or margarita to adults who eat there – donation or no donation?
Why is this such a big deal to you?
West U is my Kind of Town says
I am undecided about if Little Matt’s should be able to get a liquor permit. But until they do, they should have to follow the law. Tiny Boxwoods just sent to a lot of effort and expense to get a permit. Shouldn’t anyone else have to do the same? But you can’t say that Little Matt’s is the same as Tiny Boxwoods. You go to Little Matt’s to be around kids. You go to Tiny Boxwoods to get away from kids and relax. I am not sure that matters, but they are not the same.
Grand Dad says
From the perspective of a 50 year old whose offspring are now adult, there is no distinction between Little Matt’s and Chuck E. Cheese’s. They both are hangouts for minors.
Lloyd B. says
I served with Tiny Boxwood, I knew Tiny Boxwood, Tiny Boxwood was a friend of mine. And Little Matt’s, you’re no Tiny Boxwoods.
Rice Blvd. says
Since there is no article on this yet, but it is along a similar vein I am commenting on the proposal to sell alcoholic beverages at the Colonial Park pool.
Folks, this is not the Briar Club, it is a city pool. Are you going to want table service to go with the drinks?
We do not need to be selling alcoholic drinks to adults to enjoy while their kids frolic in the poolside. Do your job and pay attention to and play with your kids in the pool, you don’t need to be socializing with other parents over margaritas, wine, and beer.
I am no prude and enjoy a margarita at a restaurant, but, think about the message you are sending to junior…
“Mom/dad, am I not entertaining enough for you at the pool? When I am an adult, will I need a drink at the pool to enjoy myself with my kids?”
With the pool closing at 7pm most days of the week, which does not allow working parents to spend any time with their kids, when are people going to be having these drinks, all afternoon??
Back to Junior…”Oh, and how come you walk around with me at Halloween drinking beer or wine?”…yeah, with that season coming up, it’s a pet peeve also.
I can’t believe I have become the old school generation of parents at 52 but I think this whole idea is a mistake.
“Ma, can I have a Shirley Temple?”
rice blvd. dont you dare assault the wine and beer parade on halloween! i love it
This is ridiculous. I personally work here and know everyone on the staff and nobody here gives away alcohol to teens or our “friends” that are commenting on this story. Little Matt’s has recently opened and has become very successful. I’m not surprised that someone somewhere has a negative feeling towards our establishment because we are slashing and dashing the competition. Jim is a great family man and is a symbol of good West U spirit. It’s low of all of these comments because I’m sure everyone who has said something on here accepts the alcohol with a smile from a “high schooler” (most of us are seniors and 18 anyways…). Also we have been approached by the TABC and complied with them and have no longer asked for any sort of compensation but returning customers choose to donate anyways.
You know this is all just very sad because my sisters love this place and has become a great place for kids to come and hang out and you think you’re proving something by trying to shut us down but really, you’re just hurting the community.
stop complaining says
if little matt’s actually had a liquor license no one would think twice about it…
edloe deli is about only a few feet farther away from west u elem, and no one is complaining about them serving alcohol.
kids go with their parents all the time to places such as skeeter’s or other restaurants where the adult can sit down and have a drink, doing no harm to their kids or anyone else’s for that matter.
little matt’s is a family restaurant, serving kids AND their parents so why shouldn’t the parents be able to enjoy a drink at the end of the day?
i bet half of you people who write these posts complaining about the alcohol policy enjoy the free alcohol regularly….
West U MAMA says
I find it to be very humorous that West U has worked so hard to put together another iconic spot like our previous JMH, and when we finally have a store that treats our West U like its one family, people have to try to destroy it. West University has prided itself on its close knit community since day one, Little Matts if anything is just one more person, place, or thing that we must be proud of. I know some of the kids that work at this restaurant and 1) they are all smart kids 2) they are hard working 3) they are West U children. If we don’t have more faith in the people in our community, then we honestly aren’t the neighborhood I have always been so proud of being involved with. I know for a fact that I have friends who go to Little Matts weekly and will get wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages and go home happy. This issue shows me how West U is even more self involved then I ever could imagine. We love and we accept our free alcohol, until one article points out a few flaws, what we have here is a neighborhood full of hypocrites who are trying to make it seem like they have been against it all along.
Why would Little Matts have this alcohol system if no one was putting it to use?
I love West University, I think its full of love, faith, and good people. I find it ridiculous though that this is even an issue when Little Matts/ Matthews Market is a newly created place, that already feels like home to the majority of us.
I <3 LITTLE MATT'S! my grankiddies <3 it 2!