LUBBOCK, Texas — All businesses that serve alcohol face a lot of responsibility in making sure customers who drink get home safely. If that doesn’t happen, the repercussions can be deadly.
On Thursday, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission explained what some of the consequences are for businesses that over-serve their customers.
“The business could potentially face either a suspension of its license to sell alcohol or potentially a fine from TABC,” said representative Chris Porter, “and the severity is going to depend upon how many times we have found these citations in the past.”
In addition, the person that sold the alcohol could also be held accountable.
“The individual employee who actually conducted the sale, they would also face some sort of criminal penalty, in most cases that could be fined up to, you know, between $100 to $500, or additionally a year in jail depending upon the severity,” said Porter. “So, there are obviously going to be penalties both for the server and for the business.”
By Texas state law, it is required that businesses stop serving when a customer is noticeably intoxicated. Austin Carrizales, an associate attorney for Loncar, Lyon and Jenkins, knows just how much overserving can have an impact on the lives of others.
“I’ve seen people even here within the past week that were just out trying to do, you know, a good celebration, and it ends up with many deaths because somebody couldn’t focus on the road and they were too impaired to drive,” said Carrizales.
Having represented dozens of victims in drunken driving accidents, Carrizales explained that although the individual customer has a personal responsibility for how much they drink, there is also a massive liability for the business giving them the alcohol.
“I think there’s a huge difference between going out for a few drinks with your friends and trying to get your clients wasted to where they can’t even make a rational decision at the end of the night,” he said.
Over the last two years, the TABC has given nine citations to Lubbock businesses for overserving alcohol. These have typically come after standard TABC inspections, or sadly, drunken driving tragedies.
“Overall, I would say the numbers are relatively low,” said Porter. “However, it’s kind of hard to get a good scientific measure of where things stand just because of how the pandemic has affected bars.”
However, to help prevent this, employees at businesses that serve alcohol are required to go through various training sessions to evaluate when a person is impaired.
When deciding if someone’s had enough, some bar owners said you could never be too careful.
“We don’t have any tolerance for it,” said Tommy Bonner, owner of Bier Haus. “If we see anyone that is intoxicated at Bier Haus, we’ll cut them off right away and get them an Uber home.”
The TABC recommends bars have some plan in place for making sure folks who drink have a safe ride home – by either planning for a designated driver, using rideshare apps or working with local police.