Considering A Dram Shop Case Against Highland Lounge? Here's What You Need To Know
My firm has handled more liquor liability (dram shop) cases than anyone else in Texas. With over 30 years of practice behind me, I can attest to just how many bars regularly fail to adhere to alcohol service laws, particularly when it comes to their obligation to refuse service to patrons who are already drunk. While the public might see or hear about a drunk driving accident from time to time, it is much less common for it to hear about the role that irresponsible bars play in those accidents. In order to increase people's awareness of this problem, I dedicate a portion of my time to researching the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's complaint database and reporting my findings here on my website. If you think you may have a dram shop (liquor liability) claim and have questions about how to proceed, please call me at (855) 326-0000.
Highland Lounge is a nightclub located in Austin, Texas. In recent years, it has attracted a significant amount of attention from the TABC due to allegations of liquor law violations. Between 2018 and 2019, authorities conducted no fewer than six investigations into the bar's alcohol service practices.
In my experience, it's uncommon for a bar without a history of run-ins with the TABC to end up on the hook for contributing to a wrongful death or injury. Virtually every bar I have ever sued was already on the authorities' radar. That's why I pay close attention to bars with several recent complaints against them. The more investigations a bar has had, the greater my concern is that it could one day contribute to an accident.
Note: Investigations are not proof of wrongdoing. However, if authorities investigate and fail to find evidence of a violation, it doesn't necessarily mean an establishment is innocent, either. The purpose of this article is simply to relay publicly-available information about incidents where the TABC has investigated Highland Lounge for possible criminal or administrative violations.
TABC Investigations of Highland Lounge Between 2018 and 2019
Austin - 404 Colorado Street
Law enforcement contacted the TABC on 02/12/2018, claiming that the bar sold alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Upon investigation, authorities were able to find sufficient evidence to prove the allegation, which they classified as an administrative violation. After deciding not to punish the bar, they closed the case on 07/28/2018.
The TABC received a complaint from an unnamed source on 06/14/2018, alleging that the bar sold alcohol to a drunk person and that a breach of the peace (typically a fight) occurred.
An investigation ensued, but ultimately, authorities were unable to take any action due to a lack of evidence. With no other option available, the TABC closed the case on 07/11/2018.
A concerned citizen reached out to the TABC on 07/12/2018, claiming that the bar sold alcohol to a minor and allowed staff to sell drugs on the premises.
Authorities looked into the allegations shortly thereafter. For most liquor law violations, the TABC requires either video footage of the incident or eyewitness testimony from one of its agents in order to take action. Having neither in this investigation, authorities decided to close the case on 08/21/2018.
On 12/29/2018, a citizen complaint brought the TABC back to investigate once again. This time, the allegation was that the bar permitted the possession of drugs on the premises.
The TABC followed up with an inquiry, but agents did not manage to find evidence to support the claim. Unable to take any further action, they were left with no choice but to end their work on 01/18/2019.
The next citizen complaint came on 01/22/2019, alleging that staff was drinking on the job. This type of allegation is more serious than it might appear on the surface. Staff has a legal obligation to stop serving alcohol to patrons who exhibit signs of being dangerously intoxicated. If staff is drinking, its ability to judge when to cut off service is impaired.
While authorities could not find evidence to support the initial claim, their investigation did turn up proof of two criminal violations, namely resisting arrest and misrepresentation of age by a minor. From the report, it does not appear that the TABC handed down any punishment for these violations, choosing instead to close the case on 03/19/2019.
A citizen complaint, filed on 12/03/2019, alleged that the bar sold alcohol during prohibited hours.
Due to a lack of video evidence to support the allegation, the TABC could not take any action. As a result, they decided to wrap up their work on the investigation on 01/10/2020.
Texas Law Says Accident Victims Can Sue Bad Bars
If you would like to learn more about Texas dram shop law (i.e. lawsuits against bars who play a role in injurious or fatal accidents), please visit our Texas Dram Shop Law Info Page.