The Shops at Willow Bend in Plano is working to change your perception of a shopping mall. In 2018, the mall fussed with the traditional plan for a food court by building a new courtyard, with food. It cost $125 million.
As part of that remodel, Ascension coffee shop inside the mall is selling beer and wine as of the first week in January. It was a good choice on the part of Willow Bend executives to pick Ascension, as it's one of Dallas' fastest-growing coffee companies right now. And it was a smart move to offer beer and wine to mallgoers, if only because Texans still have to pinch themselves anytime drinking in a public place seems easy. Texas' alcohol and beverage laws are pretty strange.
So, let's say you're over 21 years old and you enjoy wine or beer. We're here to answer your questions:
Where is the wine and beer for sale?
Beer and wine will be sold at Ascension Annex. The stand is located inside the Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, near the new Knife restaurant and the Apple store. It's a freestanding coffee counter. The best places to park are near Neiman Marcus or Dillard's. Ascension Annex is located between the two.
The walk-with-it beer and wine is only available for purchase at Ascension Annex.
Do I just say 'give me alcohol, please'?
Not quite, though they'll appreciate the "please." All patrons who want to buy beer or wine must be at least 21 years old. They'll approach the Ascension counter and pick a beer (Miller Lite, Shiner Bock or Stella Artois) or a glass of wine (prosecco, rose, pinot grigio, pinot noir, malbec and more). Beer costs $4 to $5 and wine costs $7 to $11. Anyone drinking will get a wristband and will have to wear it while imbibing inside the Shops at Willow Bend. It will be poured into an Ascension cup; no glass bottles are allowed.
Ascension also sells coffee and other non-alcoholic drinks.
Where can Willow Bend shoppers go with their beer or wine?
Almost anywhere inside the complex. A spokeswoman for Willow Bend confirms that nearly every retail establishment inside the mall will allow someone holding alcohol to enter. That includes: the Apple store, Neiman Marcus, Dillard's, Crate & Barrel and more. Stores reserve the right to change their policy, a spokeswoman says.
A few exceptions: Patrons can't take alcohol into the Crayola Experience. Sorry, parents. And, patrons cannot walk into or out of restaurants that already sell beer or wine.
Patrons also can't leave the mall with an alcoholic beverage.
Is this legal?
Yes. Ascension Annex has a wine and beer on-premise permit, and under Texas law, that means they can sell alcohol on site and to go. "There's no TABC requirement which would disallow a guest from consuming the beverage on private property (in this case, the mall), after removing the beverage from the licensed premises," confirms TABC spokesman Chris Porter in an email. In other words: Go for it.
Why don't other places do it?
Hundreds of businesses in Dallas have this same TABC permit. Most are restaurants. But two of the better analogies — of businesses selling alcohol to-go in a big shopping area — are Central Market and Whole Foods Market. Central Market and Whole Foods (denoted as WFM Beverage Corp.) have the same permit that Ascension Annex inside Shops at Willow Bend does. And at both, anyone 21 and up can shop and sip.
Can you drink at Shops at Willow Bend on Sundays, too?
You can. Sunday hours for selling alcohol from Ascension Annex are noon to 6 p.m. The other six days a week, beer and wine will be sold from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Is this a 'thing' for Ascension?
Not exactly. While other Ascension coffee shops in Dallas-Fort Worth sell alcohol, the others are not inside malls. The executives at Ascension are willing to consider looking into the drinking-in-the-mall idea further, however.
"If there is a demand, we would love to expand this concept," says Ascension's Director of Marketing Sierra Tuthill.