Considering A Dram Shop Lawsuit Against Addison Point Sports Grill? There Are A Few Things You Should Know
Because my firm has litigated more dram shop lawsuits than anyone else in the state, I'm more aware of just how widespread the problem of over-service by bars and restaurants is, as well as the terrible consequences it can have for those harmed as a result. But it doesn't seem as though that awareness is as widely shared among the general public, and I think that's a shame. To try to bridge the gap, I like to occasionally look through the files of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's list of complaints and report on what I find. If you would like to talk about a possible Dram Shop case, call me at (855) 326-0000.
Addison is a popular area for night life in the DFW Metroplex. It's not flashy like Uptown and not hard to navigate like Downtown. Even the streets of Deep Ellum are loud and crowded, to say nothing of the bars. Lower Greenville has its moments but parking is often pretty bad down there. Addison has music and plenty of bars without some of the more negative aspects of DFW's bigger party areas.
This isn't an Addison Chamber of Commerce ad, though. As with more well-known areas like Austin's Sixth Street, having plenty of bars clustered in a particular location comes with a lot of risk for people drinking there (and even ones just passing through). For instance, I wrote about Sherlock's Pub recently, and that joint causes enough ruckus for about half of Addison by itself. But today I want to look at a more humble staple of the Addison bar scene--Addison Point Sports Grill.
Established in 1977, Addison Point is tucked into a relatively nondescript shopping center. It stuck to what it knew--bar food, cheap drafts, karaoke--and has been favorably reviewed for decades by happy regulars and pleasantly surprised visitors. In a broad sense it's kind of dive-y, but that's an aesthetic a lot of people appreciate. It's not all good times and nightly drunken renditions of Sinatra, though. Some dive bars get up to just as much mischief as big dance clubs; Addison Point, for example, seems to have been investigated by the TABC for some pretty rowdy behavior over the past ten years.
A Quick Note: Just because this bar was repeatedly investigated doesn't mean it knowingly or routinely flouts the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. On the flip side of that, if investigators determine that the location isn't in violation of TABC code, that does not mean that none of the alleged violations took place. Sometimes there just isn't enough evidence of a criminal or administrative violation to make an allegation stick. All we're doing here is reporting things that were reported to concerned citizens and law enforcement agencies.
TABC Investigations of Addison Point Sports Grill Since 2008
Addison Point only has a single location, so I will list the alleged violations in reverse chronological order beginning with the most recent.
6/13/2017: A law enforcement agency (likely the Addison PD) contacted the TABC to report that a Breach of the Peace occurred on Addison Point's premises. The complaint also alleged that the bar had sold or given alcohol to an intoxicated person.
It's not too hard to make a connection between someone getting too drunk and someone starting a fight in the bar, but I should qualify that by saying the report doesn't explicitly connect those dots. It only notes that both complaints were registered at the same time, but doesn't outline specifics. A drunk person was allegedly over-served, and some kind of disturbance serious enough to merit law enforcement intervention occurred. That's all we get on the public report.
Whatever the specific circumstances involved, TABC agents investigated these complaints for roughly two months before closing the file on 8/11/2017 without taking any dispositive action against the bar.
12/22/2016: A concerned citizen filed a complaint with the TABC alleging that Addison Point sold or served alcohol to an intoxicated person. This kind of over-service is a serious matter and is one of the main reasons for the establishment of dram shop law.
The drunker a person gets, the more compromised his or her decision-making becomes. People seeing those bad decisions sometimes feel it is their moral duty to alert authorities that the law is being violated. We applaud those citizens for trying to make an impact in those bad situations, and for attempting to prevent similar ones from happening in the future.
Not every allegation is provable, however. Even if the reporting citizen watched the bar keep pouring for someone who was already smashed, it's tough to chase down enough concrete evidence (sales receipts, security footage, corroborating witnesses) to make the complaints stick. TABC agents diligently looked into the allegations but don't seem to have found enough to work with, as they closed the ticket without taking further action on 2/01/2017.
1/15/2015: A "Licensee/Permittee" (meaning a bar employee) reached out to the agency to report a Breach of the Peace on premises. The report doesn't specify exactly what happened, but establishments are required by law to alert the TABC of breaches if they meet certain degrees of severity. For instance, if property was destroyed or a weapon brandished during the incident, Addison Point would have been required to report the breach within five days. If someone was seriously injured during the incident, the TABC requires the bar to alert them within 24 hours.
With all that said, this specific incident actually is filed with an allegation of "Breach, Failure to Report." Given the lack of useful information on the ticket, I have to guess that a bar employee reached out some time after the mandatory window to report the incident--and presumably to apologize for being late.
Either the TABC accepted the late report without incident or it determined that no report was needed, because the investigation was closed without disposition on 2/26/2015.
8/10/2011: According to the complaint, a citizen called the TABC to report that Addison Point was permitting gambling on its premises.
Illegal gambling is a subsection of a larger complaint category called "Place or Manner" that generally describes behavior the bar is not allowed to engage in. "Gambling" itself could be a number of things, from sports betting to a corner dice game to even a game of bingo. The TABC penalty schedule even includes a potential fine for possessing gambling paraphernalia, though surely that means something more like a roulette table than it does a deck of cards.
Regardless of the specific nature of the gambling, a bar patron or visitor felt it was out of place enough to let the TABC know about it. Investigators looked into the complaint and eventually determined that the gambling in question was some sort of non-sanctioned bar promotion. A violation was noted on the case as "Place or Manner On Premises Promotions" and a written warning was issued to Addison Point. The case was then closed on 8/31/2011.
1/31/2011: Not far into the New Year, the TABC got a call from a citizen that Addison Point not only allegedly sold alcohol to an intoxicated person, but also that a bar employee (Licensee/Permittee) was intoxicated on the premises.
This kind of thing happens sometimes, especially in bars with a number of regulars. Employees are bought shots or drinks because there is a friendly rapport between themselves and patrons who consider them pals. While it's nice to build that relationship with clientele, bar employees should definitely know when they can't handle any more drinks.
Of course, I'm also romanticizing something that may just have been a bartender pouring shots for him/herself and a visiting friend. Whichever situation it was that led to an allegedly drunk employee and a supposedly over-served patron, TABC investigators didn't find enough evidence of either infraction to take disciplinary action. The case was closed without disposition on 3/19/2011.
1/24/2011: A citizen called in a complaint about what the TABC unhelpfully tagged as "Misc. Violations." Because that's extremely vague and no action was taken (no investigation was even conducted--the ticket was opened and closed on 1/24/2011), we're just going to keep going.
10/07/2010: Addison Point was reported by a concerned citizen for gambling on premises, written on the complaint form as "Place or Manner Gambling."
This may have been another promotional stunt like the one we saw on 8/10/2011, but investigators didn't find enough evidence of wrongdoing to actually issue a citation this time around. The investigation was closed without disposition on 12/07/2010.
8/03/2010: According to the TABC complaint form, the bar had a busy night! A citizen called up the TABC to file a complaint with the following allegations:
- Selling or serving alcoholic beverages to a minor;
- One or more intoxicated bar employees (Licensees/Permittees);
- Sale of alcohol to an obviously intoxicated person;
- Gambling on the premises.
The mind reels with possibilities when looking at that list, but sadly no details were provided so your guess is as good as mine (at least there were no breaches of the peace in there). Whatever the reality of the evening, TABC investigators were apparently unable to find sufficient evidence to confirm any of these allegations. The case was closed on 10/07/2010 without any dispositive action taken.
1/26/2010: Investigators were sent to Addison Point to look into a citizen complaint of "refilling," which is exactly what it sounds like. Bars that commit this violation re-use old liquor bottles, which they are forbidden to do. Most commonly they save the bottles from more expensive liquors and pour cheaper stuff in to serve it at a markup, or just use a larger container of the same liquor (like a handle) to refill the 750ml bottle because it's easier to use at the bar. No matter their reasoning, though, the practice of refilling is prohibited by the TABC.
The ticket was closed one day later on 1/27/2010 without dispositive action. The following entry (which actually corresponds to the incident reported before this one) is about the same allegations, meaning that the TABC likely just didn't see the need to have two tickets open for the same complaint.
1/12/2010: A citizen reached out the TABC for a Refilling allegation.
Because I'm working backward through these complaints, I was unaware of this one until I wrote the entry before it. The TABC received this report around two weeks prior to the one on 1/26, and this case was worked until 2/06/2010, meaning it overlapped with the second complaint above.
As I noted in my revised entry about the complaint on 1/26, the TABC likely only needed one active complaint related to refilling at the same location, which is probably why the second ticket was closed so quickly. Agents investigating this violation weren't able to find sufficient evidence of the practice to take any disciplinary action, and both Refilling tickets were closed without disposition.
12/23/2009: On a night called "Christmas Adam" by some (for a vulgar joke I won't explain, but feel free to Google it!), an Addison Point patron called the TABC to report a series of violations. According to the allegations noted on the agency's complaint form:
- The establishment allegedly sold/served alcohol during prohibited hours of operation;
- Bartenders were allegedly refilling bottles;
- The owner/operator of the bar (Interestingly abbreviated by the TABC on reports as "MB," which is shorthand for "owner of a Mixed Beverage permit") permitted the sale of uninvoiced alcoholic beverages on premises,
- A violation (or several) described only as "Place or Manner On Premises Promotions."
That's a lot to unpack, but rather than guess at the specific events that gave rise to the complaint I'll just touch on what the general violations entail:
- Sale during prohibited hours is exactly what it sounds like. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage code requires bars to stop selling alcohol and close up shop by 2 a.m. (and that's if they have a special "extended hours" permit). If Addison Point (allegedly) stayed open beyond that time serving booze, they violated a law that has been active for decades.
- We covered refilling in the last couple of entries so I won't rehash it, but it's strange to see so many separate allegations of this violation.
- Sale of Uninvoiced Beverages means the bar allegedly sold beer, wine, or liquor they didn't actually buy themselves from a distributor in the first place. That can take different forms, like borrowing another bar's excess inventory or a bar owner selling shots of something weird they bought overseas. The point is, anything the commercial establishment sells to patrons has to be traceably bought from an alcohol distributor per the rules of the TABC.
Theoretical example: If investigators found a mason jar full of Cambodian whiskey with a scorpion floating in it (or just a few cases of Lone Star from a neighboring bar), and could prove patrons paid money to drink its contents, then the bar that served it likely would have violated the law.
- It's pretty hard to say what Place or Manner On Premises Promotions might entail, especially mixed up with all these other allegations at once. The only thing I'll say is that visitors to the bar seem to feel that some of the its practices are questionable, given the number of Place or Manner and Refilling allegations I'm seeing.
Despite the smorgasbord of reported violations, TABC investigators don't seem to have located enough evidence to take any action against Addison Point. They closed the investigation on 1/22/2010 (meaning yet another Refilling allegation was active in between the other two listed above) without taking dispositive action against the bar.
11/12/2009: A law enforcement agency seems to have worked in cooperation with the TABC's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to handle a reported Aggravated Breach of the Peace.
According to the TABC website, "The Special Investigations Unit focuses on long-term, resource-intensive investigations involving narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering and other organized criminal activity connected to the alcoholic beverage industry." That's a direct quote from their page and is in no way meant to speculate about what went down at Addison Point. Evidently the Aggravated Breach of the Peace was serious enough to merit calling in the Varsity Team of investigators, but what it specifically was isn't disclosed on the general report.
The write-up of the allegations also includes an entry for "Breach, Failure to Report." Part of me is not surprised to learn Addison Point wouldn't want to broadcast its (alleged) involvement in something so serious, but no matter its reluctance it was still duty-bound to do so. When the investigation concluded a mere five days later on 11/17/2009 (could mean a great deal of conclusive evidence or its total absence), the agency issued the bar a civil penalty for its failure to report the event.
11/05/2009: Again, going in reverse seems to work against me. Based on the TABC's reports, it seems law enforcement initially reported the breach of the peace without appending "Aggravated" to it. The severity of the allegation was upgraded a week later.
This ticket is just the precursor to the event we looked at above, so let's move on.
10/22/2009: A citizen contacted the TABC to report that the bar allegedly served or sold alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Investigators looked into the allegations for over two months, but apparently couldn't find enough evidence to corroborate the citizen's complaint. The case was closed on 12/18/2009 without dispositive action.
10/02/2009: A law enforcement agency notified the TABC that a breach of the peace had occurred at Addison Point. After a short investigation (the ticket was closed on 10/20/2009), the agency wrote up the bar not just for the breach itself (actually somewhat unusual), but for the bar's failure to report the breach in a timely manner as required by law.
Without knowing the specifics of the breach incident, we can only infer that it was bad enough to bring out the cops because they alerted the TABC about it. If the police were called to the location that automatically qualifies the breach as bad enough to warrant a TABC report. By failing to call the agency, Addison Point was in breach of its responsibility.
The TABC issued separate Civil Penalties (most likely fines) to Addison Point for the breach and for its failure to report it.
11/13/2008: A concerned citizen reached out to the agency to report that Addison Point allegedly served alcohol to an intoxicated person. Also included in the report is a complaint the TABC filed simply as "Misc. Violations," which I won't even touch because it could be all kinds of things.
As for the over-service allegation, investigators only kept the ticket open for nine days. It was closed on 11/22/2008 without dispositive action. As I have mentioned before, when investigations are only open a week or so it generally means evidence was found either to confirm or deny the charges. Considering that no disposition went along with the ticket closure, I suspect agents found the allegations did not have merit in this situation.
1/24/2008: The TABC's first electronically-recorded complaint against Addison Point is a citizen outreach alleging "Consumption during Prohibited Hours." The most likely scenario, keeping in mind that it's still a guess on my part, is that the bar stayed open past 2 a.m. with some combination of staff and regulars continuing to have a good time. However innocuous that might seem, we don't pick and choose which laws to obey, so it's good that the complaint was made.
It is however quite difficult to prove that an establishment was open later than allowed unless the TABC immediately dispatched investigators that same evening. I sincerely doubt that happened, so the bar more or less just had to deny the allegations and agents would have been hard-pressed to find proof. To their credit the performed their due diligence, but the case was closed on 3/14/2008 without dispositive action.
Texas Law Allows Victims of Over-service to Sue Bad Bars
If you're interested in learning more about Texas Dram Shop/liquor liability law, we encourage you to look over our comprehensive page on the subject.