What You Should Know if You Are Considering a Dram Shop Lawsuit against Alamo Drafthouse
With more than 30 years of experience suing bars for negligently over-serving alcohol to patrons, my firm has handled more dram shop (liquor liability) cases than any other in Texas. We've seen what a far-reaching problem this is, and just how serious the consequences can be when bars and restaurants fail to follow the law. Naturally though, the general public may not have the same degree of awareness. In hopes of calling more attention to this issue, I occasionally look through the complaint database of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and report my findings here on my website. If you believe you may have a dram shop claim, don't hesitate to call my office at (855) 326-0000.
Established in Austin, Texas back in 1997, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is a chain of movie theaters that is well-known for its food and drink service during screenings. A big part of its draw is the selection of over 30 beers on tap at every location. Owned by Tim League, who also owns Drafthouse Films, the theaters generate an estimated total of $170M in annual revenue. While over half of its 41 locations are in located Texas, Alamo Drafthouse has been progressively expanding across the country and shows no signs of slowing.
Though the theater has a code of conduct for workers and patrons alike, such as a strict ban on texting during movies, that hasn't prevented it from ending up on TABC's radar from time to time. Even if you have never heard of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema before, the fact that alcohol makes up a significant part of its revenue should be obvious from the name alone. Since 2015, there have been several investigations into alleged violations of alcohol laws.
Note: Investigations are not proof of wrongdoing. Even when a complaint is filed, it does not mean that a violation of alcohol service laws occurred. However, even in the absence sufficient evidence, it doesn't necessarily mean the establishment is innocent, either. In order to take action against a bar, investigators must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a violation of Texas liquor laws. Due to the nature of such offenses, that proof can be difficult to find. The purpose of this article is merely to relay publicly-available information about incidents where the TABC has investigated Alamo Drafthouse Cinema for possible criminal or administrative violations.
TBAC Investigations of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema since 2015
Austin - 1120 S Lamar Boulevard
A TABC investigation or two at the same location is not that unusual. However, this particular Alamo Drafthouse location alone was the setting of four of the eight complaints on this list.
On 12/02/2015, a member of the Austin community reported multiple alleged violations of alcohol service laws at this location. TCAB investigated the claims, which included a staff member drinking on the job, sale of alcohol to an intoxicated patron, and consumption of alcohol during prohibited hours.
Upon examination of the available information, TCAB could not produce sufficient evidence to substantiate the claims against Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. Thus, the case concluded without further action on 01/28/2016.
That same year, this location found itself under investigation once again. On this occasion, it was law enforcement who submitted the complaint. On 10/06/2016, TCAB checked into charges that staff had sold alcohol a noticeably drunk customer.
After an especially long investigation - spanning over five months - insufficient proof of criminal or administrative violations brought this case to a close on 03/24/2017.
Less than two weeks after the above complaint, a concerned citizen filed yet another on 10/17/2016 after observing an allegedly intoxicated staff member. TABC attempted to determine the veracity of this claim, but without enough evidence to take action, they dropped the matter on 12/02/2016.
On 08/30/2017, an anonymous source filed the most recent complaint against this location. Allegedly, staff continued to serve a visibly intoxicated patron - by far the most common breach of TABC regulations.
After a month-long investigation of the matter, TABC failed to find any substantial proof and wrapped up their work on 09/20/2017.
Either this is the unluckiest bar in Texas to have so many investigations in such a short period of time or things were going on that authorities simply couldn't prove. You can make up your own mind which is more likely.
Austin - 5701 Slaughter Lane
On 02/14/2018, an unnamed individual filed a complaint which charged a staff member with consuming alcohol on the job. In many of the cases my firm has handled in which a drunk ends up killing or seriously injuring someone, the staff at the bar that over served them was also consuming alcohol on the job.
If you think about it, this isn't surprising. It's against the law for staff that's serving alcohol to consume it while they're on the job, because if they're under the influence of alcohol, how are they supposed to spot when someone has had too much? This may sound like a harmless accusation, but it's quite serious.
TABC examined this claim, but without turning up any solid evidence. As a result, the case concluded on 03/29/2018 without further action.
San Antonio - 1255 Loop 410 Southwest Suite 125
A citizen complaint received on 05/20/2016 triggered a TABC investigation into the alleged sale of alcohol to a minor.
As is often the case, it was not possible to find enough evidence to corroborate the claim. Given the circumstances, TABC brought its inquiry to a close on 07/03/2016 without further action.
Dallas - 1000 S Austin Street
On 01/28/2019, a complaint against this location brought TABC agents knocking to investigate two separate claims. The alleged violations concerned the sale of alcohol to a drunk person as well as the sale of alcohol during prohibited hours. It is unclear from the report whether these two alleged offenses occurred during the same transaction or if they were separate incidents.
Like in most TABC investigations, hard proof a violation was not easy to obtain. Without video footage or a TABC agent directly observing an offense, it is virtually impossible to hold a bar accountable for breaking liquor laws. Thus, the case concluded on 03/28/2019.
Corpus Christi - 7601 S Staples Street
On 11/15/2017, TBAC launched an investigation into a complaint about a patron who allegedly left this location with a mixed beverage.
After a standard two-month-long investigation, TBAC ended up closing the case due to lack of corroborating evidence on 01/06/2018.
Texas Law Allows Those Harmed by Over-service to Sue Bad Bars
If you're interested in learning more about Texas Dram Shop/liquor liability law, we encourage you to take a look at our comprehensive guide to the subject.