Friday, a judge ruled against the TABC in every single complaint made at Austin’s Dallas Nightclub. It could not have gone worse for the TABC.
Fate of Dallas’ liquor license now in hands of TABC.
An administrative law judge recommended Friday that Dallas Night Club keep its liquor license, saying that the evidence presented in a January hearing did not support the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s bid to stop the club from serving alcohol.
Judge Sharon Cloninger ruled that the commission failed to prove that Dallas bartenders knowingly served alcohol to intoxicated persons or that its weekly 69-cent drink special induced customers to drink excessively or prevented employees from adequately monitoring customers’ drinking.
You can Download the judge’s ruling here: http://alt.coxnewsweb.com/statesman/news/042106dallasruling.pdf
The commission declined to comment on Cloninger’s 43-page decision. The three-member commission will make the final decision on whether to cancel Dallas’ license.
“I regret that we had to go this far, but we’re comfortable that we’ve been vindicated and we’re going to rebuild our clientele and our business,” said Betty Jensen, president of Cowpoke Inc., which runs the club on Burnet Road.
It’s the latest setback for an agency whose recent undercover operations in bars across Texas have brought loud complaints from bar owners, patrons and local tourism officials â€” and prompted state lawmakers to hold a hearing earlier this week on the tactics.
The commission recently suspended the program that sent commission agents and local police into bars to arrest what they said were intoxicated patrons. Commission officials are reviewing the program, which was announced Aug. 26.
Dallas became a target of the undercover stings after it appeared at the top of an Austin police
list of bars where people arrested on suspicion of drunken driving said they consumed their last drink. Commission agents and Austin police conducted frequent undercover operations at Dallas, arresting patrons for public intoxication and accusing bartenders of selling alcohol to intoxicated people and the club’s manager of inducing customers to drink excessively, a violation of TABC rules.
Dallas fired back last week, filing a federal lawsuit accusing the commission of unfairly targeting the club and using an inconsistent standard to decide when patrons are drunk.
The three-day hearing before Cloninger in January focused on three undercover operations that agents and police conducted at the club on Wednesday nights, when the club holds its drink special, in March, May and July 2005.
During the stings, Dallas customers were arrested on charges of public intoxication and bartenders accused of serving an intoxicated person were cited.
In one case, a bartender was accused after a patron was arrested for public intoxication in the parking lot â€” he had fallen asleep in his car with the engine running. Cloninger wrote that there was no evidence that the man was visibly “intoxicated to the degree that he may endanger himself or another person” when he was served beers inside the club.
Cloninger noted that on three nights when the club was crowded with hundreds of people, its capacity is 885, commission agents and Austin police arrested only one customer for public intoxication each night.
Agents and officers testified during the January hearing that they saw many more intoxicated patrons in the bar on those nights. The judge quoted one police detective who “said she saw an estimated 20 to 30 publicly intoxicated patrons over (a) four-hour period, but did not identify any of the patrons or describe any of the signs of intoxication she observed, except to say some of the patrons were holding longnecks or drinks.”
“I think this was the right decision,” said Dallas manager Bill Thompson, who said he left the state in February in part because of commission pressure on the club. “It was never our drink special that put us in the unfavorable position we found ourselves in. It was selective enforcement.”