What is a private club?

A private club is a term that applies to a place where groups of people meet, usually centered around a common interest or topic. For example, country clubs where members meet to watch or play golf would be considered a private club. These types of clubs typically require membership of some sort in order to take part in their offered facilities or events. Private clubs offer many benefits to their members, from socializing to cultivating exciting atmospheres to spend time in. In Texas, the term “private club” has a different connotation–it is a type of permit that allows a business to sell and serve alcohol to their members, even in dry areas, as long as they are properly licensed or permitted with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).

What Is the Private Club Act?

The Texas state constitution allows for individual cities and counties to determine whether they will permit alcohol sales. But, the history of how the Private Club Act came to be is somewhat more complex. In 1935, Texas passed a liquor control act which tightened restrictions on where, when, and how alcohol could be sold. Enacted in 1961, this act bypassed laws that otherwise prohibited the sale of alcohol. Private clubs typically have some rules, such as that a member can bring up to three guests with them. These rules are usually partially governed by the specific terms of the permit the club has been granted, but there may be additional rules specific to the club as well. When a club has been properly permitted, it allows them to:

  • Purchase wine, beer, and distilled spirits from specific businesses
  • Store alcohol on their premise
  • Serve the purchased beverages to their members
  • Provide food
  • Serve alcohol alongside food if they are defined as, or have an on-premise, restaurant

What Is Considered a Private Club?

There is a wide range of businesses covered under the term “private club.” Because of its wide umbrella, it can sometimes be confusing to know if your business is considered a private club or not. Below are some types of private clubs which may require a private club permit:

Country Clubs

Country clubs are typically centered around specific recreational activities such as golf, tennis, or swimming. They often offer alcohol service in clubhouses, in on-site restaurants, or during events.

Social Clubs

Social clubs tend to focus on being social and networking. There is often a focus such as on a specific culture, profession, or hobby. There may be alcohol served during club meetups or other events that are held on-premise.

Yacht and Boating Clubs

As their name implies, this type of club centers on boating and marine activities. They may also offer alcohol service in clubhouses and during events.

City Clubs

These clubs are typically based out of urban centers and usually offer dining, social events, and other networking opportunities for members of their association. Typically alcohol is served to members and their guests at these events.

Sports Clubs

Typically focusing on specific sports, they may provide facilities to practice those sports as well. Additionally they may serve alcohol at events.

Fraternal Organizations and Lodges

Based on shared interests or affiliations, for example Masonic Lodges. They may serve alcohol at their private events or meetings.

Health and Fitness Clubs

These are generally more upscale-style health clubs with the common purpose of uniting like-minded fitness fans. and may also have a lounger or dining area. Alcohol may be served in these areas for members after they have done a workout, or during social events that the club may have.

Private Dining Clubs

Focused on fine dining experiences, alcohol is often an integral part of these clubs.

Membership-Based Nightclubs

Unlike typical nightclubs, these offer a membership model. This means that they have a more exclusive atmosphere, although they still normally offer alcohol service as well.

Historical or Literary Clubs

Clubs with a focus on educational, historical, or literary subjects. These associations may have events or other gatherings where alcohol is served.

What Type of Private Club Permit Is Needed in Texas?

Depending on what kind of alcohol the private club serves, as well as some other factors, there are a few types of permits that may be applicable. They are:

  • Private Club Registration Permit (N):This is required for any private club which serves alcohol (liquor, wine, or beer) to members and their guests.
  • Private Club Exemption Certificate (NE): A private club permit that is issued to non-profit entities only and therefore the entity is exempt from paying the state’s two-year permit fee.
  • Private Club Late Hours Certificate (LH): This permit allows for the sale of alcoholic beverages during extended hours that go past standard legal operating hours. For example, a nightclub may need this additional permit.

Ultimately, private clubs are one of the most unique and interesting businesses to exist and they make the Texas socializing landscape a great one. If you are opening a private club, or need help with the licensing for your current private club, then turn to Monshaugen & Van Huff, P.C. They can offer expert assistance for the license and permitting process, application renewals, and continued compliance for your club.  For questions, or to schedule a consultation, call (713) 880-2992.