Do You Have A Potential Dram Shop Lawsuit Against Barley House? We Have Some Important Information for You
My firm has litigated more cases involving negligent alcohol service than anyone else in Texas, so I've seen first-hand how over-service is a major problem at pretty much every type of alcohol vendor, from major chains to college bars. But based on many conversations I've had over the years, it doesn't appear that most of the general public is aware of just how serious this problem is across our state. In the interest of remedying that situation, I sometimes take a look through the complaint files of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and report my findings. If you would like to talk about a potential dram shop case, please call me at (855) 326-0000.
Barley House is a collegiate bar in Dallas, located close to the campus of Southern Methodist University (SMU). For the uninitiated and the forgetful, college bars are generally full of rowdy young people eager to drink and socialize. There's loud music, probably a poorly-maintained and/or sticky pool table, and a fairly constant line of students queued up for their next pint of whatever's cheap.
When enough college students get together and drink, there's a decent chance that a fair number of them aren't actually of legal age to do so. Between underage drinking and over-service to intoxicated people, college bars have their work cut out for them to stay on the right side of the law. Sometimes, whether out of carelessness or because they don't really make it a priority, they fail to do so and that's when they run afoul of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC).
Barley House has had its share of alcohol-related issues involving the TABC. Four complaints in as many years doesn't sound that bad, but read on and see what those actually entailed before making up your mind.
Note: Investigations are not guarantees of guilt. Just because a complaint was filed, it does not mean that Barley House actually violated alcohol-service laws. However, even if sufficient evidence of a violation is not found, that doesn't necessarily mean the bar is innocent--only that the allegation couldn't be proven. In order to make any claims stick, investigators have to find irrefutable evidence that there was a violation of Texas dram shop law. Due to the nature of the offenses, that proof can be difficult to find. All we're doing here is relaying publicly-available information about incidents where the TABC has investigated Barley House for possible criminal or administrative violations.
TABC Investigations of Barley House Since 2015
Barley House operates only one location.
Dallas - 5612 SMU Boulevard
12/29/2015: Right around New Year's Eve, a concerned citizen reached out to the TABC to allege that Barley House sold and/or served alcohol to a minor.
Serving alcohol to people under 21 of age is a serious problem. Many 18-to-20-year-olds have some pretty strong opinions about their inability to raise a glass, even though they can vote and smoke and join the military, but despite their distress, federal and state governments haven't budged. The law prohibits serving alcohol to patrons under 21, with one exception that doesn't really apply here.* Sometimes bars don't do the greatest job of obeying those laws, though, and dram shop law punishes them for their violations.
TABC investigators don't appear to have found enough evidence to confirm that Barley House sold alcohol to a minor as the complaint stated. Unable to prove that such a violation happened, the agency closed the file without any punitive action on 2/23/2016.
*In Texas a minor can drink alcohol with the consent and supervision of a parent or guardian, be it at home or at a bar, but most college kids at Barley House won't be bringing along Mom and Dad for Thirsty Thursdays.
10/06/2016: In what must have been a pretty interesting night, a law enforcement agency (probably the Dallas Police) informed the TABC of a series of possible infractions. The agency alleged that the bar did the following:
- Made alcohol available to a minor (different from selling/serving)
- Misrepresented a minor's age
- Sold and/or served alcohol to a minor
- Sold and/or served alcohol to an intoxicated person
That's quite a list. The complaint doesn't offer details about any of the allegations, and it's best not to do too much guessing, but based on the number of minor-related incidents listed it's possible a group of intoxicated college kids that hadn't quite reached legal drinking age were apprehended by authorities in or near the bar. It's not an unusual strategy for cops to swing by at closing time to see who has obviously had way too much. As mentioned, though, that's only speculation.
No matter the specifics of the events that led to the complaint, TABC investigators do not appear to have found sufficient evidence to corroborate any of the claims brought to them by the law enforcement agency. The complaint was closed without further action on 12/01/2016.
2/22/2017: Shortly after Valentine's Day, law enforcement once again reached out to the TABC to report a string of possible offenses committed by Barley House. The agency alleged that the bar sold alcohol to minors, permitted others to consume it on the premises without intervening, and sold/served alcohol to one or more already-intoxicated people.
There is a slight distinction to be made between selling alcohol to a minor and permitting a minor to drink it at the bar. One involves a direct transaction between the underage person and the bar's staff, meaning the bar directly facilitated the intoxication of a minor. The other allegation just involves a "hands off" approach when witnessing a minor drinking; for instance, an adult might buy the alcohol, then hand it to someone who shouldn't have it. The bar is legally obligated to stop that, but sometimes they take their chances and do nothing.
TABC officers checked into the law enforcement agency's claims. A two-month investigation yielded four confirmed cases of minors possessing and consuming alcoholic beverages on site. These are considered criminal violations by the TABC's reckoning, and the agency opened official criminal cases in all four instances. There are no official dispositions listed on any of those cases as of writing this, but the original complaint file was closed on 4/21/2017.
9/19/2017: The TABC heard from a concerned citizen who alleged that Barley House once again sold or served alcohol to one or more people under the age of 21.
TABC officers looked into the citizen's claim. It's unclear if the bar itself was necessarily found guilty of anything, but the complaint ticket suggests that over two days of investigation the officers recorded eight violations in which a minor attempted to misrepresent his or her age to employees of the establishment. This type of infraction often involves presenting a fake ID to the door person or bartender. Unfortunately, whoever was making and selling the ID's on SMU's campus may not have been very good, and eight criminal charges were logged by the TABC over the course of this investigation.
By the time of the ticket's closure officers apparently had not found sufficient evidence to confirm Barley House had actually sold alcohol to any minors--only that a bunch of the little fraudsters had tried to get in. A separate criminal case was established for each count of "Misrepresent Age By Minor," presumably against the people themselves. The bar itself faced no punitive action, and the complaint was closed on 11/20/2017.
Texas Law Allows Victims of Over-service to Sue Bad Bars
If you would like to learn more about Texas Dram Shop/liquor liability law, we encourage you to look over our comprehensive page on the subject.