TABC remains unable to punish bars serving intoxicated patrons due to ruling

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on August 3, 2013 at 3:36 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 3 at 3:36 PM

DALLAS -- Former Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent and teammate, Jerry Brown were hanging out at Beamers Private Club in Dallas, also known as Privae, hours before the suspected DWI crash that killed Brown and left Brent facing intoxication manslaughter charges.

After the incident, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) launched an investigation. It issued a press release Friday, claiming it found "sufficient evidence" that employees sold alcohol to an intoxicated person and "promoted excessive consumption" by patrons that night.

Evidence, the TABC says, it can use to move forward with its investigation and possibly pull the club's permit, but it won't. According to the agency, it’s waiting until the "conclusion of the criminal case against Brent."

“If that bar continues to operate, they don't have any consequences for their actions. Are they still allowing those things to continue?” asked attorney Pete Schulte. “And, that's the concern.”

The TABC said its hands are tied because of a legal fight in Houston with the nightclub, Treasures. Treasures challenged the agency's civil penalty rules, specifically, 11.641 (c) which states:

“....the cancellation of a permit, may not be imposed on the basis of a criminal prosecution in which the defendant was found not guilty, the criminal charges were dismissed, or there has not been final adjudication.”

A judge in Austin agreed. The ruling, Schulte says, is a problem for the TABC and its investigations.

“It basically comes to a halt," Schulte said. “The enforcement arm of the TABC is crippled by this particular decision.”

The ruling affects 70 cases, and four in North Texas, including Beamers.

Another one is focused on the Applebee's in Irving on North Belt Line Road. Investigators claim it over served an intoxicated person on February 18. The same night, Anthony Almanza was arrested. Police say he crashed into a car, killing one person and injuring another.

He's in jail facing intoxication manslaughter charges. The TABC has looked at five complaints at the restaurant. Violations were found only in one case, which is the one allegedly linked to Almanza.

“The franchisee has cooperated fully with the TABC's review of the incident and will continue to do so,” said Dan Smith, a spokesman for Applebee’s. 

The TABC has filed an appeal, arguing their investigations are separate from the criminal cases. The agency continues to look at complaints, but for now, it says it can't take the final step of going to to try and penalize problem bars or restaurants. 

As for Beamers, the TABC has investigated seven complaints. Only three showed violations, and the most serious involves the Brent investigation.

We contacted the owner of Beamers, but we have not received a response.

News 8 also contacted The Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance for comment.  In a statement, the TBNA said it exists to promote industry best practices and sound public policy affecting bar owners and thousands of men and women they that employ.  

"We have no knowledge of the facts of this particular case and the bar in question is not a member of TBNA, so will make no comment other than that we hope the TABC will give this establishment a full and fair hearing before any further action is taken," said President Michael Klein. 
 

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