AUSTIN (KXAN/Texas Tribune) — With a swish of the pen, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law the ability for restaurants to sell alcohol to customers with to-go orders that include food.

House Bill 1024 was sent to Abbott’s desk last month after clearing the Texas House and Senate.

Abbott signed a waiver in March last year to allow to-go alcohol sales to aid restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns. The waiver was originally set to last until May 2020, but it was extended indefinitely. As lawmakers began their work during the current legislative session, expanding Texans’ access to booze picked up bipartisan support.

The news couldn’t come sooner for Texans in the restaurant industry. According to the Texas Restaurant Association, 700,000 restaurant employees in Texas lost their jobs in the early days of the pandemic, and thousands of Texas restaurants have closed.

“Gov. Abbott’s emergency waiver allowing alcohol to-go during the pandemic saved thousands of restaurant jobs, creating a new revenue stream and unleashing the innovation that restaurants will need to rebuild from the pandemic,” said Emily Williams Knight, president/CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association. “We still have a long road to recovery ahead, but with tools like alcohol to-go, the restaurant industry’s future is brighter than ever in Texas.”

The TRA reports that a May 2020 survey by the National Restaurant Association found 81% of Texans support permanent alcohol-to-go laws, while the majority of restaurants were utilizing the ability.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.