What You Should Know If You're Considering A Dram Shop Lawsuit Against Applebee's
Because my firm has sued more negligent bars for claims related to over-service than anybody else, I've had the chance to witness firsthand the devastating consequences that businesses can cause when they break our laws related to safe provision. To help people who haven't had my first-hand experience gain a better understanding of the extent of this problem, I occasionally spend some time looking through the records of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and reporting what I find. If you believe you may have a dram shop claim and would like advice on how to proceed, please call me at (855) 326-0000.
Applebee's is among the largest restaurant chains in the United States. Nationwide, Applebee's had 1,782 operating locations, as of 2017. The company took in $2 billion in revenue. I doubt there's even a moderately-sized town in Texas that doesn't have an Applebee's.
Unlike many other large chain restaurants, Applebee's itself doesn't operate any restaurants directly. Instead, Applebee's uses a franchise model, with the day to day operations handled by local ownership. While Applebee's corporate attempts to set minimum quality and safety standards, the burden of ensuring that these restaurants comply with Texas alcohol laws ultimately falls on local ownership. This means that despite the same brand name appearing over the doorway, the practice of safe alcohol service can vary greatly from restaurant to restaurant, depending on how much of a priority it is for the individual owner.
Over the last two years, complaints against Applebee's restaurants in the state have resulted in nearly 50 Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission investigations. While some may argue that, given the sheer number of Applebee's in Texas, this is to be expected, it's still an exceptionally high number. To put it in perspective, 50 in a year means that hardly a week goes by without a new investigation looking into an allegation that an Applebee's restaurant violated laws mandating safe alcohol service.
It's important to remember that an investigation is just like a person getting arrested. It doesn't mean that they committed the alleged violation, only that authorities believed there was enough evidence to warrant an investigation. In fact, none of these bars should be presumed to have broken the law until they are convicted in court. By the same token, when action isn't taken against a bar, it could mean either that they are actually innocent of the charges, or that they committed wrongdoing and the agency simply didn't find enough evidence to convict them.
Below is a complete list of every TABC investigation of Applebee's since the beginning of 2017.
Applebee's Locations Investigated by TABC Since 2017
Arlington - 4654 South Cooper Street
TABC began an investigation of this Applebee's on 2/21/2018, after receiving a complaint from an unspecified source that alcohol was being served to minors and obviously intoxicated patrons.
The investigation concluded on 3/25/2018, with the TABC unable to confirm the accusations.
Athens - 1110 East Tyler Street
It appears this restaurant was either unlucky, or had a really bad week last May. In the span of a week, TABC opened two separate investigations, based upon tips provided by law enforcement. One investigation began on 5/23/2017 and concerned allegations that obviously intoxicated patrons were being served. A second investigation commenced on 5/30/2017, and centered on reports of underage drinking and alcohol being sold to minors.
Neither investigation was able to gather enough evidence for further proceedings and both inquiries shut down on 7/10/2017.
Bedford - 2400 Airport Freeway Suite 120
Acting upon a complaint from a citizen, TABC launched an investigation into complaints that this bar served a minor, permitted minors to possess alcohol on the premises, and sold to intoxicated patrons. The TABC started work on 4/28/2017. This investigation didn't turn up evidence of wrong-doing and concluded on 5/26/2017.
Less than a year later, on 2/09/2018, law enforcement officials alleged that this same restaurant served a minor. TABC's second investigation was more successful than the first, in that they uncovered enough evidence to conclude that a violation took place. This complaint was closed on 3/02/2018, however, despite the finding that this bar violated rules relating to serving minors, it doesn't appear that a punishment was handed down.
Burleson - 1115 North Burleson Boulevard
A citizen complained to the TABC that intoxicated patrons were being served by the staff. TABC began looking into the matter on 1/26/2017.
Unable to uncover evidence that confirmed the allegations, TABC closed the filed without taking action, on 3/23/2017.
Canton - 335 Hwy 243
TABC began an investigation into this location on 6/26/2017, after a citizen reported complained that staff were serving drunk customers.
The inquiry ended on 8/23/2017, with the TABC taking no action.
Cedar Hill - 649 Uptown Boulevard
On 4/05/2017, a private citizen complained to TABC that staff members at this Applebee's were intoxicated while serving alcohol. One of the pillars of Texas liquor law is that those who serve alcohol have a duty to monitor their guests, to ensure they aren't being served while intoxicated. It's next to impossible for this duty to be properly fulfilled when the person serving the drinks is also intoxicated.
TABC was unable to uncover evidence that substantiated the complaint and closed the investigation 5/16/2017.
Cedar Park - 11013 Lakeline Mall Drive
TABC received a report from a private citizen that this location sold alcohol to underage customers. TABC began their investigation on 3/02/2017.
In either a peculiar twist, or clerical error, it appears that this investigation also ended on 3/02/2017. I won't speculate as to why the investigation lasted for only one day, but having looked through thousands of TABC report summaries, I cannot recall a single investigation that concluded so quickly.
Cleburne - 216 West Katherine P Raines Drive
This is an interesting investigation, because the complaint came from the restaurant's ownership/management. On 1/04/2017, TABC launched an investigation into a breach of the peace at this Applebee's. Breach of the peace is just the legal term for disturbances such as fights, or other such violent incidents that result from intoxication. Texas liquor law requires that all licensed establishments report these incidents to TABC, but very few actually do.
While it is a bit of a concern that there was an incident in the first place, it's good to see a bar take their responsibilities seriously. TABC took no further action and closed their investigation the next day.
Copperas Cove - 2525 Highway 190 East
TABC received a tip from a citizen that this Applebee's served intoxicated patrons. An investigation commenced 1/22/2018.
The inquiry ended 3/08/2018, without further action, as it appears the TABC failed to uncover enough evidence to confirm the allegation.
Dallas - 3426 West Illinois Avenue
On 2/10/2017, TABC launched and investigation into this bar. A citizen filed a complaint that staff served alcohol to minors and also provided alcohol to obviously intoxicated customers.
The investigation concluded 4/20/2017, with the TABC investigators unable to uncover proof of any wrong-doing.
Dallas - 3565 Frankford Road
In the span of just a few months, this restaurant found itself under two different investigations for selling alcohol to obviously investigated patrons. The first investigation began on 5/17/2017, after a private citizen filed a complaint with the TABC. A second investigation into the same type of violation commenced 8/25/2017. There is no word who prompted the second inquiry.
Both proceedings concluded on 8/20/2017 and 10/02/2017, respectively, with TABC investigators unable to confirm the allegations. No action against the bar was taken.
Denton - 707 I-35 E
According to allegations from a local citizen, this bar was selling alcohol to patrons who were already drunk. TABC opened their investigation on 7/24/2017.
No actions were taken against this restaurant and TABC closed their investigation 9/01/2017.
Duncanville - 810 South Cockrell Hill Road
This Duncanville Applebee's found itself under investigation by the TABC twice in 2017. In August, a citizen complained that the bar sold alcohol to minors. TABC looked into the complaint, was unable to uncover corroborating evidence, and close the investigation on 10/17/2017.
Then in December, law enforcement officials referred a laundry list of allegations to the TABC for further investigation. The alleged wrong-doing included sale of alcohol to minors, selling alcohol to intoxicated customers, breach of the peace, and failure to report a breach of the peace. Despite the laundry list of potential bad behavior, TABC was unable to come up with evidence to support the charges, closed the case 1/03/18, and took no further action.
Forney - 114 Highway 80 West
This bar was accused by an unnamed source of selling alcohol to people who were already drunk. TABC launched their investigation on 1/23/2018.
Finding no evidence to back up the allegations, the investigation finished on 3/22/2018, with no further action taken.
Frisco - 3141 Preston Road
On 6/28/2017, TABC launched an investigation after receiving a complaint that this particular Applebee's allowed minors to possess and/or consume alcohol in the restaurant.
TABC closed the investigation 8/09/2017, without concluding that any wrong-doing took place.
Grapevine - 2215 East Grapevine Mills Circle
Law enforcement believed that this bar was selling alcohol to intoxicated patrons and referred the matter to TABC, which opened a formal investigation on 3/22/2017.
TABC investigators were unable to prove that staff was serving patrons who were already drunk and closed the investigation 4/29/2017.
Jersey Village - 19821 Northwest Freeway
Someone believed that they saw staff serving minors at this location and complained to the TABC. An investigation was launched on 4/27/2017.
It appears that there wasn't enough evidence to take action against the restaurant and TABC investigators concluded their investigation on 5/22/2017.
Lake Worth - 6301 Lake Worth Boulevard
Local authorities tipped off the TABC to what they believed was the sale of alcohol to obviously intoxicated patrons. The resulting investigation began 6/27/2017.
Unable to find corroborating evidence, the TABC shut down the investigation on 8/12/2017.
Laredo - 10719 International Boulevard
Responding to a complaint from a private citizen that staff were serving minors, TABC launched an investigation into this Applebee's on 12/27/2017.
Investigators were unable to substantiate the claim and closed the case on 2/22/2018, taking no further action.
Lewisville - 543 FM 3040
The TABC received a complaint from an unknown source that this location sold alcohol to minors. As a result, TABC investigators opened a formal investigation on 8/25/2017. The investigation uncovered evidence to support the charges and TABC concluded that an administrative violation took place.
The matter was resolved 2 days later, on 8/27/2017, with no further action taken against the bar, despite TABC's conclusion that wrong-doing took place. It's not uncommon that bars with otherwise clean records get off very lightly for a first offense. This is especially true when management can convince TABC investigators that it was a rogue employee who broke the law. In my experience, if you dig a little deeper, an investigator can almost always uncover some way that management encouraged their staff to break the law, but such investigations take longer than 2 days.
It's a bit infuriating that even when TABC uncovers wrong-doing, there's no real penalty.
Longview - 101 West Loop 281
TABC launched an investigation into this Applebee's on 1/04/2017, based upon a laundry list of accusations by a private citizen. The allegations include:
- Selling alcohol to a minor
- Selling alcohol to intoxicated patrons
- Serving alcohol during prohibited hours
The sheer number of alleged unlawful behaviors is very rare for a TABC investigation. Most TABC probes revolve around a single alleged bad act, not three. In the end, TABC investigators could not verify the allegations and the case closed on 2/28/2017.
Lufkin - 4609 South Medford Drive
This Applebee's has been the subject of two TABC investigations within the past year. Each investigation began with a law enforcement referral to the TABC.
The first investigation centered on suspicion that bartenders were serving alcohol to minors. The inquiry ran from 2/07/2017 through 3/25/2017, with TABC investigators unable to substantiate law enforcement claims.
On 12/27/2017, another investigation looked into reports that customers were still being served, even after they were already intoxicated. Again, TABC could not uncover enough evidence to proceed and the investigation ended 2/02/2018.
Marshall - 2305 East End Boulevard South
While the source of the complaint is not published, an investigation into this bar began on 4/05/2017. It was alleged that management failed to report a breach of the peace to TABC. Texas liquor law requires that licensed alcohol providers report violent incidents that take place on their property.
Investigators were unable to verify the charge and dropped the matter on 6/03/2017
McAllen - 4601 North 10th Street
TABC launched an investigation into allegations that staff illegally served a minor, based upon a tip from a private citizen. The probe started on 4/07/2017 and concluded 5/06/2017.
Unable to prove the claims against the bar, TABC took no further action.
Mesquite - 19035 I-635
TABC opened an investigation into this Applebee's location in response to a complaint from a private citizen that staff were serving obviously intoxicated patrons.
After a nearly two-month investigation, TABC shut down the inquiry with no further action taken.
Mount Pleasant - 2300 Green Hill Road
The investigation into this bar is somewhat strange. TABC launched their investigation on 6/16/2017 into an allegation that staff continued to serve drunk customers, after receiving a report from the liquor license holder at the location. In short, the owners of this restaurant self-reported their own bad behavior.
Now there are a lot of bars out there who try to claim that they practice safe alcohol service and any lapses are the results of rogue servers, but I have never seen one of these bars self-report infractions as this restaurant appears to have done. Now I don't condone any instance of breaking liquor laws, particularly serving those who are already drunk, but we'd all be better off if more alcohol providers took their obligations as seriously as the owners of the Mount Pleasant Applebee's.
TABC closed their investigation on 8/08/2017, without taking any further action.
Palmhurst - 306 East Mile 3 Road
After a private citizen filed a complaint, TABC began an investigation on 1/29/2018 into reports that staff served guests who were already intoxicated.
The investigation failed uncover evidence that wrong-doing took place and ended 3/25/2018.
Rowlett - 4616 Lakeview Parkway
In 2017, the TABC looked into this eatery on two different occasions. The first inquiry began on 5/01/2017 to look into allegations that drugs were permitted in the restaurant, staff were intoxicated, and drunk patrons were still served alcohol. TABC concluded the investigation 6/17/2017, taking no further action on the matter.
On 8/29/2017, an unnamed source alleged that the restaurant was again serving intoxicated patrons. TABC's investigation concluded 2 months later, on 10/28/2017, with agents unable to corroborate that wrong-doing had taken place.
Saginaw - 945 North Saginaw Boulevard
On 10/26/2017, TABC began an investigation to look into a private citizen's complaint that staff at this restaurant served alcohol to minors.
The case was closed 12/22/2017, due to lack of evidence.
San Angelo - 4333 Sherwood Way
A local citizen claimed to witness staff serving alcohol to minors at this bar. They alerted the TABC, which began an investigation into the matter on 8/25/2017.
Unable to uncover evidence that supported the claim, TABC investigators closed their investigation on 10/05/2017.
Stafford - 12740 Southwest Freeway
A private citizen complained to TABC on 4/24/2017 that staff were serving minors at this Applebee's. TABC opened their inquiry the same day.
TABC's investigation failed to prove the allegations and the matter was dropped on 5/02/2017.
Taylor - 103 Carlos G Parker Boulevard Northwest
It sure looks like November 2017 was a bad month for this bar. In the span of less than a month, TABC initiated two separate investigations into this location.
On 11/01/2017, law enforcement referred a matter to TABC. They allege that a breach of the peace (a.k.a. a fight) occurred and that management failed to report to incident to the TABC as required by Texas law. A few weeks later, a private citizen claimed to have witnessed staff illegally serving alcohol to customers who were already intoxicated. TABC's investigation started 11/29/2017.
Neither investigation turned up enough evidence to pursue the matters further and the inquiries shut down 12/18/2017 and 3/05/2018, respectively.
Temple - 1808 Southwest HK Dodgen Loop
Someone claimed to observe staff serving alcohol to underage customers and reported the matter to TABC on 1/09/2018.
An inquiry ensued that concluded on 2/13/2018 with investigators unable to discover evidence that would support taking further action.
Waco - 614 North Valley Mills Drive
This Applebee's seems to have found itself in the TABC crosshairs 3 separate times in 2017. Remarkably, each investigation involved different alleged violations of Texas liquor law.
Things kicked off when a private citizen complained that a staff member was intoxicated while serving alcohol to others. I've mentioned before, if you are intoxicated, it's next to impossible to tell how intoxicated your customers are. That's job #1 for alcohol providers in Texas. That investigation began on 2/13/2017 and concluded 3/10/2017. Apparently, there wasn't enough evidence to back up the charge.
Less than a month later, on 3/15/2017, another citizen complained that an employee who appeared to be under 18 was in possession of or serving alcohol and that the restaurant was permitting minors to possess or consume alcohol on the premises. Since a worker has to be at least 18 years old to handle alcohol, this is a pretty serious charge. This investigation concluded 5/02/2017, with no further action taken.
Then, on 8/21/2017, another citizen complained to the TABC that staff were serving alcohol to guests who were already drunk. Once again, TABC investigators were unable to corroborate the alleged wrong-doing, and they dropped the matter 10/03/2017.
This could again be a case of a restaurant that had the worst luck with people seeing things that weren't actually taking place, or it could be that it's next to impossible for TABC investigators to confirm allegations like these after the fact. Either way, it is suspicious anytime one bar has 3 investigations in a year, even when they were cleared of wrong-doing each time.
Waxahachie - North 601 Highway 77
Acting on a complaint from a private individual, TABC launched an investigation on 1/23/2017. Investigators looked into allegations that staff were in possessing and/or selling drugs, as well as selling alcohol to drunk patrons.
The investigation concluded 2/23/2017 with TABC finding that alcohol was sold to intoxicated patrons and they also discovered a violation of an administrative rule. They did not gather enough evidence to act upon the drug allegations. The bar was hit with a civil penalty for the administrative violation, but the penalties for serving intoxicated people were suspended pending the bar's good behavior.
Then in September, TABC began another investigation into whether or not staff sold alcohol to a minor. This case closed 10/18/2017, with investigators unable to verify the claims.
Finally, on 12/13/2017, an unnamed source alleged that staff were again possessing or permitting the possession of drugs on the property, as well as serving intoxicated patrons. This time investigators did not uncover evidence to support the claims and let the matter drop on 1/18/2018.
Weslaco - 1829 West Expressway 83
On 10/10/2017, a private citizen allegedly saw bartenders serving alcohol to a person who was already drunk.
It appears TABC investigators were unable to substantiate this claim and their investigation concluded 11/30/2017, with no action taken.
Wichita Falls - 2911 Kemp Boulevard
A member of the public complained to TABC that on 2/22/2017 they witnessed a minor being served alcohol by staff.
The TABC completed an investigation, which failed to turn up proof the the witness' allegation and the case closed on 5/05/2017.
Texas Law Says Accident Victims Can Sue Bad Bars
If you would like to learn more about Texas "dram shop" law (i.e. liqour liability law / lawsuits against bars who play a role in injurious or fatal accidents), please visit our Texas Dram Shop Law Info Page.