When the Dallas Cowboys are in town, the partying starts early at AT&T Stadium.
Tailgating lots open five hours before kickoff and are filled with jersey-wearing fans in full pregame mode — grilling, popping open beers and in some cases, mixing drinks at portable bars.
The drinking continues once inside AT&T Stadium, where beer — domestic, imports and craft — wine and mixed drinks are for sale around every turn.
Beer starts at $9. Mixed drinks start are $11. Frozen margaritas, called “Cowboyritas,” go for $17.
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Considering that AT&T holds more than 90,000 people and the price of booze, it should not be surprising that the stadium brings in more money than any other sports venue in Texas.
And in Texas, a state where bigger is better and football is king — alcohol sales go up every year at sports and entertainment venues, bars, restaurants and clubs.
Statewide, sales have soared from $4 billion in 2007 to $6.4 billion last year, according to mixed beverage gross receipts turned in to the Texas Comptroller’s office. The figures do not include alcohol bought at liquor stores or grocery stores.
AT&T Stadium is No. 1 and brought in $1.9 million in alcohol sales in June (the latest figures available), when there were just two major public events — a Metallica WorldWired Tour concert and The Spartan Race, where competitors race through a series of obstacle courses.
Statewide, the sprawling Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine was No. 2 and Globe Life Park was No. 8.
But last October, when football was in full swing, AT&T saw $6.7 million in alcohol sales.
“Texas has supersized venues and big events at these places mean a generous amount of alcohol,”said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.
Other big money makers off booze across the state include: Minute Maid Park in Houston; a catering company near Houston; and hotels and resorts in San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Houston, a Star-Telegram review of Texas Comptroller records shows.
While strict policies are in place at AT&T and Globe Life Park to prevent overserving, police say it’s inevitable that some people are going to drink too much.
Last year, Arlington police made 46 public intoxication arrests in the AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park area, compared with 37 in 2015, police records show. Considering that the Cowboys averaged 92,539 fans over eight home games and the Rangers averaged 30,853 at Globe Life Park, those numbers are small.
But, Arlington police Lt. Scott Brown said, “anytime you have a lot of people and alcohol is available, it’s going to be a public safety issue.”
One former server at AT&T said she was concerned about the sheer volume of alcohol served at the stadium.
“I’d stop serving if I noticed they had enough to drink,” said Silvana Martinez, who worked in private suites at the AT&T Stadium for five years.
The Dallas Cowboys and AT&T Stadium have received high marks from the NFL for complying with safety and security standards and fan control.
Drinking in Tarrant County
AT&T Stadium, Gaylord Texan and Globe Life Park were joined by TopGolf and Lone Star Park in the top five in Tarrant County, followed by popular local restaurants, bars and clubs, according to a review of mixed beverage — beer, wine and mixed drinks — gross receipts filed with the state in June.
The Gaylord, which sits next to Lake Grapevine just north of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, features four restaurants, seven bars, a large nightclub and a 10-acre water park, draws countless conventions and gatherings. Officials declined to release a list of the groups that visited there in June, but they did give the number: 75. Alcohol sales in June: $1.8 million.
Globe Life Park in Arlington sold the third largest amount of mixed beverages in Tarrant County in June, a hot month that saw the Texas Rangers host 12 home games against the Houston Astros, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. Sales: $945,447.
TopGolf, a trendy 65,000-square-foot sports and entertainment complex east of downtown Fort Worth on East 4th Street, came in next. This long awaited venue, where golfers — or wannabes — eat, drink and hit golf balls, features more than 100 hitting bays and an interactive driving range. It opened in May and in June no other TopGolf in Texas sold more booze. Sales: $563,776.
Lone Star Park, which features live horse racing at its Grand Prairie track as well as concerts and other events, was the fifth most likely local place to go and drink in June. The park offered a chance to see live racing from April 20 to July 30, as well as concerts and other events. Sales: $557,089.
While the venues make plenty of money off alcohol sales, cities, counties and the state get a share as well.
Taxes on the alcohol sales are sent to the state.
Then each quarter, the state sends a portion of the gross receipt taxes and sales taxes collected off alcohol sales — 10.7 percent — back to the cities and counties where the alcohol is sold. The rest goes into the state’s general revenue account, where it can be used for any state expense.
In July, for instance, Arlington received $397,881 and Tarrant County received $2.5 million for their quarterly payments, Texas Comptroller records show.
In 2016, Arlington received $1.8 million back from the state, which went into the city’s general fund and can be used for any local expense. Overall, Arlington’s 2016 general fund budget was $221.9 million.
What’s your pleasure?
Draft beer is far from your only option when visiting popular drinking spots.
Yes, it still is an option at Globe Life Park, for instance, where you can get Budweiser, Bud Light, Budweiser Signature, Michelob Ultra or Ziegenbock.
But baseball fans also may pick premium draft beer — such as Shocktop Orange and Karbach Love — not to mention specialty beer pints ranging from LandShark to Straw-Ber-Rita Splash.
There’s also wine by the glass, wine on tap, frozen drinks, frozen margaritas and mixed drinks.
Prices range from $7.75 for premium canned or bottled beers to $14 for frozen drinks in souvenir cups or premium draft beer in a mason jar.
Meanwhile, at AT&T’s Stadium Club, fans have a variety of choices, including a kiosks that sell “Gameday Cocktails” and offering such drinks as Cowboy Blue, a mix of vodka and blue lemonade, and Texas Tea, a mix bourbon and cola.
You can also get wine and all kinds of beer, from domestic to imports.
But don’t think there are no limits.
At AT&T, for instance, buyers must show an ID and officials say no alcohol will be sold to people who appear to be intoxicated. They do have a two beer limit at concession stands as well as workers walking around selling the drinks.
Alcohol sales in most areas end at the end of the third quarter and “management reserves the right to cut off alcohol sales at its discretion,” according to the stadium’s alcohol policy.
Staffers at the stadium are trained every year to address concerns about alcohol consumption. And AT&T Stadium uses more than 1,500 part-time workers on game days who help with everything from parking and security — and they help keep an eye on the crowd, monitoring for alcohol issues.
The stadium also advertizes a designated driver program, sponsored by Miller Lite, where participating fans receive a “designated river” wristband and free bottle of water if they register as a designated driver.
At Globe Life Park, Section 335 has been designated as a no-alcohol section for all regular season games. Alcohol sales end in general seating after the seventh inning and at concession stands after the eighth inning (or 2 1/2 hours after a game starts), according to the stadium’s alcohol policy.
Police officers monitor the stadiums for traffic and public safety issues such as thefts, fighting — and public intoxication, said Brown, Arlington’s commander of the special events section that includes Globe Life Park and the AT&T Stadium.
Public intoxication is a Class C misdemeanor, but when intoxicated fans are issued tickets near the stadiums, they usually are arrested — unless there’s a sober friend or family member there to take them home.
“Any time you have a lot of people and they are in a festive environment, as sports fans are ... and alcohol is available, it’s certainly something we are going to keep an eye on,” Brown said.
‘Consumed in mass quantities’
Alcohol in Texas is big business.
Not surprisingly, as the state’s population grows, so do alcohol sales.
In Tarrant County, where the population has grown from 1,682,034 in 2007 to 1,966,440 this year — an increase of 17 percent — alcohol sales have soared.
Ten years ago, sales were $4 billion across the state. Last year, they were up to $6.4 billion — an increase of 62.5 percent.
In Houston over the last four years, we’ve seen 10 new places open for every one that closes.
Mike Raymond, co-owner of Houston bar
While AT&T Stadium is the top venue, the most drinks — more than $11.7 billion over the past 10 years — are sold in Harris County, something Mike Raymond chalks up to population and cost.
“As a result of increased demand, more bars and restaurants are opening and each one is a revenue center for the state,” said Raymond, co-owner of the Reserve 101 whiskey bar in Houston. “In Houston over the last four years, we’ve seen 10 new places open for every one that closes.”
At the same time, when Reserve 101 opened, he said a 21-year-old bottle of Balvenie scotch would cost around $65.
“Now it’s $225,” Raymond said. “As a result, a pour of that scotch has gone from $20 up to $70.”
Dallas sold the second most, with $8.5 billion, followed by Travis County, with $5.7 billion, and then Tarrant County, with $5.3 billion.
Bexar County rounded out the top five with $5.1 billion in sales, the review of state records shows.
“It’s not a surprise that mixed beverage sales have gone up,” said Arthur Westinghouse, an intervention specialist and counselor at the Nevada-based Westinghouse Intervention. “Whether it’s at a stadium, hotel, conference center or gathered around the tube, alcohol is being sold and consumed in mass quantities.”
‘I remember what we did’
Kynmbahl Wesson, who has been to concerts at AT&T Stadium and a game at Globe Life Park, doesn’t mind shelling out the bucks for a drink or two at events.
She tends to order a mixed drink at the events she attends because she doesn’t have all the ingredients to make her favorite drinks at home.
“For me, that’s just what I get when I go out,” said Wesson, a 25-year-old Hurst woman. “It’s about the experience.
“You’re hanging out with your friends, in a group of people who are doing the same thing.”
Adam Nombrano, a Fort Worth fan, said he has attended Cowboys and Rangers games in Arlington and considers a cold beer a part of the experience.
“I go to games to have a good time and having a beer goes with it for me” said Nombrano, 46. “It always turns out to be a great time.”
Westinghouse said sporting events have long been a major part of America’s culture.
“Equally part of our culture has always been drinking larger amounts of alcohol at these events,” he said.
Drinking, however, is not for everyone.
Jorge Velez, a 39-year-old Keene man, said he attends Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers games as well as concerts.
Even though he sees drinks flowing, he never buys booze.
“I never have, never really had a need or desire to,” he said. “I actually have more fun not drinking. And the next day, I remember what we did.”
Top sellers for booze
Tarrant County top 10
Any business in Texas that holds a mixed beverage license has to report revenue generated by beer, wine and liquor to the Texas Comptroller’s office every month. Here’s a look at the top Tarrant County sellers for June:
AT&T Stadium, Arlington — $1.9 million
Gaylord Texan, Grapevine — $1.8 million
Globe Life Park in Arlington — $945,447
TopGolf — $563,776
Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie — $557,089
Varsity Tavern — $457,820
Joe T. Garcia’s — $405,597
Billy Bob’s Texas — $402,835
Bucks Cabaret — $341,671
Omni Fort Worth Hotel — $325,238
The Texas top 10
Any business in Texas that holds a mixed beverage license has to report revenue generated by beer, wine and liquor to the Texas Comptroller’s office every month. Here’s a look at the top statewide sellers for June:
AT&T Stadium, Arlington — $1.9 million
Gaylord Texan, Grapevine — $1.8 million
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, San Antonio — $1.4 million
JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, San Antonio — $1.3 million
Minute Maid Park, Houston — $1.3 million
Spectrum Catering, Oak Ridge North — $1 million
Hilton Anatole Hotel (SALC, Inc.), Dallas — $1 million
Globe Life Park in Arlington — $945,447
JW Marriott Hotel Austin — $919,343
Marriott Marquis Houston — $878,134
Mixed beverage sales
Texas businesses that hold a mixed beverage license have to report revenue generated by beer, wine and liquor to the Texas Comptroller’s office every month. Here’s a look at statewide totals, based on mixed beverage gross receipts.
2017 — $3.9 billion*
2016 — $6.4 billion
2015 — $6.2 billion
2014 — $5.9 billion
2013 — $5.5 billion
2012 — $4.9 billion
2011 — $4.8 billion
2010 — $4.1 billion
2009 — $4.2 billion
2008 — $4.2 billion
2007 — $4 billion
*2017 totals run through July
Top Texas counties
Here’s a look at recent mixed beverage sales, based on gross receipts, in five of the largest counties in Texas between January 2007 and July 2017.
Harris — $11.7 billion
Dallas — $8.5 billion
Travis — $5.7 billion
Tarrant — $5.3 billion
Bexar — $5.1 billion
Source: Texas Comptroller’s Office