Thinking About Filing A Dram Shop Lawsuit Against Bliss Lounge? Here's What You Should Know
My firm has sued more bars for negligent alcohol service than anyone else in Texas. I'm not sure that most people understand just how prevalent this problem is, so I do my best to raise awareness through my online and offline platforms. To advance this goal, I sometimes look through the TABC's database of public complaints and report my findings. If you believe you may have a dram shop case, please give me a call at (855) 326-0000.
Bliss Lounge is a party spot and nightclub in Galveston's famous Strand historic district, a popular tourist destination. Given its popularity with tourists and those waiting to board their cruise ships (the area is right next to the terminal where they make berth), businesses located in the Strand often do a brisk business, particular during peak "vacation"-oriented times of year like the weeks of Spring Break for college students. With cheap drinks and plenty of loud dance music, the venue does plenty of business even in the off-season.
Of course, this popularity does mean more customers, and the law of averages suggests that occasionally rules regarding safe service are more likely to get broken when more people are being served. Even bars with good intentions are hard-pressed to keep the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) from their door forever, this also appears to be true for Bliss Lounge. The bar has had a few encounters with the TABC, as the agency's officers were called to investigate complaints of misconduct four times since the beginning of 2016.
Note: Investigations are not guarantees of guilt. Just because a complaint was filed does not mean that Bliss Lounge 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 conclusively enough for official action to be taken against them. 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 Bliss Lounge for possible criminal or administrative violations, not suggesting that any wrongdoing was or wasn't committed.
TABC Investigations of Bliss Lounge Since 2016
Bliss Lounge operates only one location.
Galveston - 2413 Strand Suite A
2/02/2016: A law enforcement agency, likely Galveston PD, informed the TABC to that Bliss Lounge allegedly sold or served alcohol to a person who was already intoxicated at the time.
Over-serving drunk people is a serious problem and forms the primary basis of Texas dram shop law. Because of how much harm highly intoxicated people can cause to themselves and others, the law compels alcohol vendors to stop serving them when it's clear that they've had too much to drink. Not every bar obeys this legal obligation, and dram shop law exists to address such violations.
In this instance, investigators did not find sufficient evidence that Bliss Lounge over-served an intoxicated person as indicated by law enforcement. When unable to prove that such a violation happened, the agency is unable to take any reactive action. The complaint was closed without further action on 3/19/2016.
4/12/2016: The TABC was informed by a citizen that Bliss Lounge allegedly sold alcohol to a minor, as well as allowing a minor to consume alcohol on their premises. The two allegations may seem very similar, but are distinct: The former involves a direct transaction in which a bar employee pours a drink directly for an underage person, while the latter just involves taking no action when an underage person is seen consuming alcohol. Galveston is a college party destination, so an example would be an older student buying an underage one a drink and the bar not stopping the recipient from consuming it.
During the course of the TABC investigation, it does not appear officers found enough evidence of either minor-related claim to take action against Bliss Lounge. However, the investigation seems to have yielded evidence that the bar did over-serve an intoxicated person. A criminal case was opened in the agency's system for further investigation. Furthermore, the agency was prepared to issue an administrative sanction against the bar but instead "Restrained" its action. Ordinarily, restrained action means the bar was successfully able to argue a Safe Harbor exemption, which we examine in more detail here.
The complaint was closed on 4/23/2016.
3/10/2017: A source marked by the TABC as "Other" notified the agency that this location was supposedly up to no good. The complaint alleges that Bliss Lounge a) sold or served alcohol to an intoxicated person, b) permitted a minor to possess and/or consume alcohol on site, and c) sold or served alcohol to a person under the age of 21.
Per its duty to investigate potential dram shop violations, the TABC looked into the allegations. After checking out the claims for just over a month, agents apparently had found enough evidence to confirm the complaint of over-service. The incidents of consumption of alcohol by, and service to, a minor do not appear to have been confirmed.
The agency was prepared to take administrative action against Bliss Lounge for serving an intoxicated person, but once again restrained its punishment per the bar's ability to show satisfactorily that it had complied with the Alcoholic Beverage Code. In such instances the TABC make pursue action against an individual server known to have violated the law, but will not steps to punish the employer.
With the restrained action on file, the complaint was closed on 4/11/2017.
7/13/2018: A concerned (or possibly irritated) patron alerted the TABC of complaints that the bar's employees were refilling bottles for re-use.
A bar might refill bottles to "marry" two partially-empty ones, to substitute a cheaper liquor by portraying it as a more expensive brand, or even just to refill empty bottles with water or mixers made in-house. Regardless of the intended purpose, refilling empty bottles of spirits is expressly prohibited by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.
TABC officers looked into the citizen's refilling complaints but do not appear to have found sufficient evidence to confirm the allegation. The complaint was closed two months after it opened, on 9/14/2018.
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 invite you to look through our through overview of the subject. If you still have more questions about the law in general or how it applies to your specific case, we encourage you to contact us.