Considering A Dram Shop Case Against Valencia's? Here's What You Need To Know
I've sued more reckless bars for failing to adhere to liquor laws than anyone else in the state of Texas. With three decades of experience and hundreds of cases behind me, I have seen just how frequently bars put profit before safety and over-serve alcohol, in spite of their legal obligation to serve responsibly. While people might see or hear of drunk driving accidents from time to time, they don't tend to hear as much about the role that irresponsible bars play in those accidents. In order to raise more awareness of this topic, I spend a portion of my time researching the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's complaint database and writing about my findings here on my website. If you think you might have a dram shop (liquor liability) claim, don't hesitate to call my office at (855) 326-0000.
Valencia's is a bar located in Brownwood, Texas. In recent years, it has attracted a substantial amount of attention from the TABC due to allegations of liquor law violations. Between 2019 and 2020 alone, authorities conducted no fewer than six investigations into the bar's alcohol service practices.
In my three decades of legal practice, rarely have I seen bar end up involved in a wrongful death or injury case that didn't have a history of complaints on file with TABC. Almost every bar I've ever sued was already on the authorities radar, so when I see a bar that has been investigated several times over a short period, it raises my concern that it could one day play a part in an accident.
Note: Investigations are not proof of wrongdoing. However, if authorities investigate and fail to find evidence, it doesn't necessarily mean an establishment is innocent, either. The purpose of this article is simply to relay publicly-available information about incidents where the TABC has investigated Valencia's for possible criminal or administrative violations.
TABC Investigations of Valencia's Between 2019 and 2020
Brownwood - 717 W Commerce Street
On 03/21/2019, a concerned citizen filed a complaint with the TABC, alleging that staff was drinking on the job. This type of allegation is more serious than it might appear on the surface. Staff has a legal obligation to stop serving alcohol to patrons who exhibit signs of being dangerously intoxicated. If staff is drinking, its ability to judge when to cut off service is impaired.
Authorities looked into the matter shortly thereafter. For most liquor law violations, the TABC requires either video footage of the incident or eyewitness testimony from one of its agents in order to take action. Having neither in this investigation, authorities decided to close the case on 04/13/2019.
A staff member contacted the TABC on 04/11/2019, claiming that the bar sold alcohol to an intoxicated patron and that a breach of the peace (typically a fight) took place, which the bar failed to report (a separate violation in itself). While it might seem strange that a staff member would be the source of a TABC complaint, employees have a legal obligation to report any violations they see in the workplace.
Upon investigation, authorities were able to confirm that the bar failed to report a breach of the peace, which they classified as an administrative violation. After issuing the bar a written warning, the TABC closed the case on 06/01/2019.
The next complaint came from a member of the Brownwood community on 05/04/2019, alleging that the bar sold alcohol to a minor and an intoxicated person.
As mentioned in the first investigation summary, the TABC relies heavily on video footage to back up most claims of wrongdoing. Since authorities had no such evidence in this investigation, they could not take any action, leading to their decision to close the case on 05/31/2019.
A second staff member complaint came on 06/26/2019, and as in the previous case, it alleged that the bar sold alcohol to an underage customer and a drunk person.
Due to a lack of video evidence, investigators were unable to determine the veracity of the claim. With no other course of action available, authorities had no choice but to close the case, which they did on 07/12/2019.
Yet another complaint from staff, filed on 11/20/2019, alleged that the bar sold alcohol to an intoxicated person and that a breach of the peace occurred.
TABC agents looked into the allegations, but they were ultimately unable to turn up any corroborating evidence. As a result, investigators ended their work on 12/27/2019.
A citizen complaint, dated 02/18/2020, claimed that the bar sold alcohol to a drunk customer and that a breach of the peace occurred. Additionally, the complaint alleged that a staff member rudely displayed a weapon.
An investigation ensued, but after well over a month of work, TABC agents did not manage to produce any evidence of wrongdoing. Left with no other option, authorities closed the case on 03/24/2020.
Texas Law Says Accident Victims Can Sue Bad Bars
If you would like to learn more about Texas dram shop law (i.e. lawsuits against bars who play a role in injurious or fatal accidents), please visit our Texas Dram Shop Law Info Page.