Thinking About Filing A Dram Shop Lawsuit Against Buffalo Wild Wings? Here's What You Should Know
As the founder of the firm that's sued more bars in liquor liability cases than anyone else in the state of Texas, it's safe to say I'm probably more aware than the average person just how serious the problem of negligent over-service of alcohol is. To help raise awareness about the extent of this behavior, I occasionally take a look at the files of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and publish my findings about complaints against various licensed vendors. If you or a loved one were harmed due to over-service, I encourage you to call me at (855) 326-0000.
Buffalo Wild Wings is a fast-casual dining restaurant headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The company has over 1,200 locations world-wide with close to $2 billion dollars of annual revenue. In Texas alone, Buffalo Wild Wings operates dozens of restaurants.
Since the start of 2017, TABC has conducted 25 separate investigations of various Buffalo Wild Wings bars. Some folks may suggest this isn't a big deal, because Buffalo Wild Wings are everywhere. However, the large number of locations across the state does not make the fact that 25 investigations took place in a little over a year any less alarming. That's a lot of TABC scrutiny.
This isn't much of a surprise to the attorneys here at Grossman Law Offices, as we've been involved in 4 separate cases involving Buffalo Wild Wings. It's important to note that Buffalo Wings operates on a hybrid, corporate/franchisee model. This means that some of the locations are owned and operated directly by the company, while others have local ownership. This means that while there may be a number of locations that are model alcohol sellers, who follow the rules, there are others where the TABC at least had to take a closer look.
As always, just because a location was investigated doesn't mean that they broke the the law. When the TABC doesn't take action against a location, it can mean either that the allegations were false, or that there simply wasn't enough evidence to prove the alleged wrong-doing. Since alcohol quickly passes through our bodies, the obvious evidence of wrong-doing, i.e. a drunk person, is usually gone by the time TABC starts to investigate.
Buffalo Wild Wings Locations that Have Been Investigated Since 2017
Abilene - 4401 Ridgemont Drive
According to the complaint summary, on 6/20/2017, a law enforcement agency forwarded allegations that this location sold alcohol to minors and served an obviously intoxicated person. The investigation concluded on 8/02/2017 with no citations.
It's of some interest that this complaint came from law enforcement, since most originate with private citizens. Normally, the TABC opens an investigation when someone at a bar sees something that they believe to be illegal taking place. While such complaints are often made in good faith, justice demands that we take such allegations with a grain of salt, since in rare instances people do lodge complaints just because they have a personal ax to grind.
Unless we think that a law enforcement agency has it out for this particular Buffalo Wild Wings, it is more interesting that the complaint originated with them.
Amarillo - 9511 I-40 East
A private citizen filed a complaint on 1/3/2017, alleging that a member of the staff was intoxicated while dispensing alcohol. For obvious safety reasons, bartenders and license holders are not permitted to be drunk at a licensed establishment. After all, if you have legal responsibility not to serve obviously intoxicated customers, it's next to impossible to fulfill that duty when you, yourself are intoxicated.
The investigation was closed 2/07/2017 with the TABC taking no action against the bar.
Amarillo - 5416 South Coulter Street
On a tip from another law enforcement agency, TABC opened an investigation into the other Amarillo area Buffalo Wild Wings on 3/02/2017. Allegations were that this location was selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated patrons.
The case closed on 4/25/2017, with no action taken by the TABC.
Austin - 901 Little Texas Lane Building D
A private citizen alleged that this Buffalo Wild Wings location was selling alcohol to obviously intoxicated patrons. TABC began their investigation on 3/01/2017.
It concluded on 04/13/2017, with no action taken against the bar.
Brownwood - 511 West Commerce Street
2017 was a rough year for this Brownwood, Texas Buffalo Wild Wings location. The TABC didn't open just one, two, or even three investigations into the goings on at this restaurant. Instead, this bar was investigated for 4 separate complaints.
On 2/15/2017, law enforcement officials referred allegations that staff were serving obviously intoxicated patrons to the TABC. On 4/11/2017, the investigation concluded with no action taken.
Then on 8/21/2017, another investigation began, after a citizen tipped off the TABC that they witnessed staff serving an underage person. TABC investigators were unable to corroborate this charge and the investigation concluded on 9/30/2017.
Less than a month later, law enforcement officials again claimed that the bar was serving obviously intoxicated patrons. The TABC began their investigation on 9/19/2017 and concluded the inquiry on 10/19/2017, taking no further action.
Before that investigation concluded, TABC had already opened another file, in response to a different law enforcement concern, the service of alcohol after hours. This investigation launched on 10/13/2017 and concluded 11/28/2017, with no action taken by the TABC.
Now some folks might wonder, how does the same bar find itself investigated 4 times in a single year? Now it could be that this Buffalo Wild Wings location is the unluckiest restaurant in the state, unfairly harassed by local law enforcement, it could be a bizarre coincidence, or it could be that there's just not enough evidence to prove any of these allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. There's no way to know, but TABC has to meet a pretty high bar to hold someone accountable, which is why 92% of their cases don't result in any action.
Cedar Hill - 430 East Pleasant Run Road
An undisclosed source alleged that on 11/27/2017, this Buffalo Wild Wings served an obviously intoxicated person.
TABC's investigation ran through 1/06/2018, with no action taken.
Conroe - 2948 I-45 Suite 500
A TABC investigation into this location began on 8/24/2017 and was prompted by a private citizen who claimed to have witnessed staff serving an underage person.
On 10/17/2018, TABC closed the investigation, taking no action against the bar.
One of the issues with investigating allegations of underage service is that by the time TABC becomes involved, the alleged underage drinkers are nowhere to be found. TABC lacks the resources, particularly to manpower to even attempt to track down an alleged underage drinker. Even if they did have these resources, the underage drinker also committed a crime, which means they're not likely to cooperate with investigators.
In most instances, TABC will arrange a sting operation and put the bar in a position where they can potentially sell to another underage person. If the bar doesn't bite on the sting, they're usually in the clear.
Houston - 3651 Weslayan Street Suite 210
TABC received a tip from a private citizen that this bar served alcohol to underage patrons. As a result, an investigation commenced on 11/06/2017.
Investigators were unable to uncover enough evidence to prove the allegation and the investigation closed on 1/05/2018.
Lubbock - 7638 82nd Street
A private citizen contacted the TABC to inform them that they believed this location served underage patrons and sold alcohol to obviously intoxicated guests. The TABC began investigating the matter on 1/11/2017.
The investigation was unable to find further evidence to proceed and closed on 2/04/2017.
Mesquite - 3900 Pavillion Court
This location found itself accused of selling to minors by a private citizen. That citizen lodged a complaint with the TABC, who began looking into the matter on 05/30/2017.
Investigators were unable to find enough evidence to take action against this location and closed the case 06/26/2017.
A reason that selling to minors is so difficult to prove is that the nature of the crime is usually social. An older person in a group of friends gets a job tending bar, then proceeds to illegally serve friends. This means that when the TABC runs a sting operation, their underage person isn't in that circle of friends and doesn't get served. Meanwhile, the group of underage friends has their connection and the problem continues. I'm not trying to infer that's what happened at this location, but it's fairly common in bars that Grossman Law Offices has investigated.
Port Arthur - 8845 Memorial Boulevard Suite 100
Acting on a complaint filed by a private citizen, the TABC commenced an investigation of this restaurant on 9/29/2017. The allegations were that staff were serving obviously intoxicated people and that intoxicated patrons or staff caused a breach of the peace, which is just a fancy way of saying that a fight or some other violent act broke out.
The investigation failed to turned up the proof needed for more action to be taken and TABC closed the case on 11/07/2017.
Rockwall 951 I-30 Suite 101
It was a law enforcement referral that spurred the TABC to take a closer look at this Buffalo Wild Wings. The initial allegation, which launched the 3/20/2017 investigation, was that staff was serving obviously intoxicated patrons. TABC investigators found a violation of administrative rules, but did not specify what punishments were meted out. Given the high evidentiary standard that TABC has to meet, it's remarkable that they were able to compile enough evidence to reach a verdict in this matter.
The investigation and disciplinary proceedings ended 09/05/2017.
San Angelo - 4251 Sherwood Way
2017 found this location under the TABC's microscope on two separate occasions. Both investigations were the result of private citizens filing complaints with the TABC.
The first allegation was that on 6/06/2017, this location served alcohol to minors. This investigation concluded on 07/13/2017, with the TABC not finding enough evidence to warrant further action.
A complaint dated 9/22/2017, accused the restaurant's operators of permitting underage customers to possess and consume alcohol on the premises. Like the previous charge, no action was taken on this accusation, and the TABC closed the investigation on 10/14/2017.
San Antonio - 115 Loop 410 Southwest
A local citizen complained that this Buffalo Wild Wings location was selling alcohol to underage customers. A TABC investigation began on 1/09/2018 and concluded 1/17/2018.
The investigation found both criminal and administrative violations. The administrative penalties are currently on hold and there is no word about criminal penalties. It appears that despite the TABC uncovering evidence of the bar's guilt that no punishments of any significance were handed out.
Sherman - 4066 Highway 75
A law enforcement agency suspected that this restaurant served an intoxicated patron. They referred the matter to the TABC, which opened an investigation on 4/25/2017.
The investigation uncovered enough evidence that TABC concluded that there was an administrative violation. The penalties for this violation were placed on hold and it appears the bar will suffer no consequences.
Victoria - 7905 North Navarro Street Suite 1000
A citizen believed that the staff was serving alcohol to minors and filed a complaint with the TABC. The Commission began an investigation on 5/15/2017.
At the conclusion of TABC's investigation, on 6/16/2017, there was not enough evidence that minors were served to pursue either administrative or criminal action.
Waco - 2312 Loop 340 West
On 2/21/2017, according to a complaint filed by a private citizen, this location allegedly served alcohol to a minor. TABC began their investigation on 2/21/2017.
The investigation was closed on 4/07/2017 due to lack of evidence supporting the claim and TABC took no further action.
Waxahachie - 1635 Hwy 77 North
TABC received a complaint from law enforcement that this establishment sold alcohol to an intoxicated person. The resulting investigation began 9/21/2017.
It appears investigators weren't able to uncover evidence that verified the complaint and the case closed 12/01/2017.
Webster - 528 Bay Area Boulevard Suite 400
Citizen complaints led TABC to open two separate investigations into this bar. The first complaint alleges that on 10/09/2017 staff members were intoxicated and sold alcohol to an obviously intoxicated customer. Unable to uncover enough supporting evidence, TABC closed this investigation on 11/01/2017, with no further action taken.
Less than two months later, another investigation opened on 12/04/2017, centered on an allegation that minors were allegedly sold alcohol. Again it appears that there wasn't enough evidence to support taking further action and the TABC closed this investigation on 1/23/2018.
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.