Thinking About Filing A Dram Shop Lawsuit Against Ojos Locos? Here's What You Should Know
As the founder of the law firm that's filed dram shop claims against more bars than anyone else in Texas, I feel I have a unique obligation to help inform the public about the true extent of over-service by licensed alcohol vendors. As part of that mission, I sometimes do some digging into the files of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and report my findings. If you would like to discuss a potential Dram Shop case with one of our attorneys, please give us a call at (855) 326-0000.
Ojos Locos ("Crazy Eyes") Sports Cantina was founded in 2010 with a primarily Latino client base in mind, though their marketing materials make it clear even "gringos" are welcome. Its promotional materials offer patrons "a comfortable laid back experience" and a host of sports are also broadcast on televisions around the bar. It's the kind of establishment sometimes called a "breastaurant" due to the skimpy outfits worn by the wait staff, which the website calls "some of the most coquetas (flirtatious) y bonitas chicas (pretty women)."
Its marketing must be fairly successful, as the chain has an estimated worth of several million dollars. It's clear from that kind of profit in just a few years that they have a successful business model, but a campaign of "cheap alcohol and scantily-clad women" is not without its pitfalls. Breastaurants often have an atypically-high number of run-ins with the TABC due to how often customers are persuaded to drink too much during their stay.
This place is no exception: The TABC has investigated allegations of improper service or handling of alcohol by Ojos Locos 24 times since the start of 2016.
Important note: Simply because a location was investigated by the TABC, that doesn't mean it has a habit of violating alcoholic beverage code. Conversely, if the location is found not to have violated TABC code, that doesn't necessarily mean the alleged incident didn't happen. Sufficient evidence of criminal or administrative violations can be hard to come by, and one of the rights we hold dear in America is the presumption of innocence--even for businesses. We aren't trying to condemn Ojos Locos; we are only relaying information about the times they were reported to the TABC by concerned citizens and law enforcement agencies.
Ojos Locos Sports Cantina Locations that Have Been Investigated by the TABC Since 2016
Arlington - 1620 E Copeland Road
10/16/2017: A source marked only as "Other" on the TABC report contacted the agency to make a series of complaints about this Ojos Locos location. The source alleged that the bar engaged in the following:
- Sold or served alcohol to a minor;
- Sold or delivered alcohol to an intoxicated person;
- Suffered a breach of the peace on its premises.
Obviously this is quite a list of possible charges. Whether they're all connected to a single incident (one drunk teen took a swing at another bar patron) or several discrete happenings in the same evening, they all had to be investigated. TABC officers looked into all of the alleged activity, but were unable to find sufficient evidence of any of the charges to take any further disciplinary action. The complaint was closed on 12/02/2017 without disposition.
Austin - 7522 Ih 35 North Unit B
6/07/2016: An Austin citizen complained to the TABC that this location of Ojos Locos allegedly over-served an intoxicated person.
Investigators looked into the claim but couldn't find enough evidence of the supposed incident to take any criminal or administrative action against the bar. The complaint was closed without disposition on 7/28/2016.
4/06/2017: A citizen complained to the TABC that an employee of the bar (officially a "Licensee/Permittee") was allegedly intoxicated.
Employees should know better most not to get over-intoxicated. More than that, they have access to alcohol; the drunker they get, the fewer problems they have with over-serving it to others. I'm not saying that's true in this specific instance, it's just a hazard in the industry.
The risks of drunk employees aside, TABC officers looked into the citizen's allegations. After a month they still hadn't turned up enough evidence of a drunk employee to take any further action against Ojos Locos, and the complaint was closed on 5/16/2017 without disposition.
10/31/2017: A concerned citizen contacted the TABC to complain that this location of Ojos Locos served alcohol to a minor. The same complaint also alleged that the location served alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Whether the two allegations are related or not is unclear; the publicly-released complaint records are pretty vague. There might have been a drinking minor and a very drunk person, or there might have been a very drunk minor. Either way, agents diligently investigated the allegations involved but were unable to find enough evidence to corroborate either complaint. The file was closed without disposition on 1/04/2018.
7/11/2018: A law enforcement agency informed the TABC that a breach of the peace occurred on the premises of this location. Additionally, the agency alleged that Ojos Locos sold alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Investigators found evidence of a breach of the peace two months prior to receiving the information from law enforcement. Because alcohol vendors are required to report most breaches of the peace to the TABC within five days of the event, Ojos Locos violated Texas law by failing to do so. The TABC issued the bar a written warning and closed the file on 8/03/2018.
Dallas - 10230 E Technology Boulevard
11/14/2016: A citizen used the TABC's complaint line to tell the agency that Ojos Locos allegedly sold alcohol to a minor and sold alcohol to an intoxicated person. The two allegations might be related; the report doesn't say.
TABC officers investigated the complaint for evidence of sale to a minor and of over-service, but didn't find enough proof of either to warrant taking further action against the bar. The case was closed without disposition on 1/15/2017.
2/23/2017: A Dallas citizen reached out to the TABC to complain that this location of Ojos Locos sold or served alcohol to a minor on the premises. Moreover, the same complaint alleged that the bar allowed the minor to possess and/or consume alcohol under its roof.
These are separate but serious charges. The former involves the bar's active participation in getting a minor drunk, which obviously is a huge no-no. The second is just as bad in a different way, since it involves the bar's passive permission for the minor to drink alcohol the bar didn't sell him.
Investigators went looking for proof of either or both charges, but were unable to find enough evidence to confirm either one. The TABC closed the complaint without dispositive action on 4/06/2017.
9/21/2017: Information from a law enforcement agency led the TABC to investigate this location for sale or service of alcohol to an intoxicated person.
TABC officers conducted a source investigation in hopes of confirming that Ojos Locos was the bar that over-served a patron who may have gone on to cause damage to property or other people in his intoxicated state. After looking into the initial police allegations of over-service, TABC officers seem to have confirmed that Ojos Locos did continue to serve alcohol to a person who obviously shouldn't have had any more. Beyond that, the same investigation seems to have turned up charges of serving alcohol to a minor.
In both instances the TABC took restrained action against Ojos Locos. This means that the bar itself was not punished for the discovered violations because it was able to demonstrate it had taken measures to train its staff not to do such things (via the Safe Harbor defense). It is possible that the employees who served the intoxicated person and the minor faced individual charges, but Ojos Locos was not fined or otherwise punished in this instance. The complaint file was closed on 11/14/2017.
El Paso - 1204 Airway Boulevard
7/15/2016: A law enforcement agency, most likely the El Paso police department, alerted the TABC to possible Beverage Code violations by this establishment. According to the report, Ojos Locos allegedly sold alcohol to an intoxicated person, as well as some instance of what is mysteriously called "Other Beverage Code Violations."
The investigation lasted over five months, which is a pretty long time in terms of TABC turnaround (standard cases seem to last from one to two months). The case file suggests that TABC officers found evidence that Ojos Locos did serve alcohol to an intoxicated person, a dangerous and illegal practice. There's no indication that the investigation turned up signs of "Other Violations," whatever they might have been.
Interestingly the case file doesn't show any action taken against Ojos Locos despite an apparent confirmation that they over-served someone. I don't know enough about the inner workings of the TABC to say why the bar got away with the infraction without punishment, but I'm sure there was a good reason. The complaint was closed on 12/28/2016.
12/01/2016: An employee of the El Paso location of Ojos Locos reached out to the TABC to report that the location allegedly sold alcohol to an intoxicated person.
The TABC complaint form shows that the agency opened a breach investigation related to this incident, meaning that the allegedly over-served party may have hurt himself or others after becoming too intoxicated, creating a breach of the peace.
Investigators looked into the complaint and seem to have found enough evidence to confirm that a person was served too much alcohol on the premises. The agency issued Ojos Locos a civil penalty, meaning the bar was fined some amount for its violation of the law.
Fort Worth - 515 Houston St 1St Floor
5/17/2016: A concerned citizen complained to the TABC that this location allegedly served alcohol to a person under the age of 21.
The TABC looked into the claim, but was unable to find sufficient evidence that a minor had been served by the bar. The complaint was closed without dispositive action on 7/09/2016.
9/14/2016: A citizen reached out to the TABC to complain about several potential violations of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. The citizen alleged that Ojos Locos served alcohol to a minor, had at least one intoxicated employee on duty, and allowed a person under the age of 18 to handle and serve alcohol to customers.
That's a pretty messy list of allegations. The TABC is quite specific that a person must be at least 18 years old to serve alcohol in a bar or restaurant, obviously selling booze to a minor is legally prohibited, and drunk employees are dangerous for several reasons.
TABC officers set about investigating the citizen's claims. After two months, they had not found enough evidence to corroborate any of the allegations, and the case was closed on 11/12/2016 with no action taken against the bar.
Houston - 12200 Gulf Freeway Suite 850
7/14/2017: A citizen reached out to the TABC through its complaint lines to allege that this location "sold, served, dispensed, or delivered" alcohol to a minor.
TABC officers investigated the complaint but closed the ticket without disposition on 7/28/2017. A turnaround that swift often means one of a couple of things: Either the officers found evidence that disproved the initial allegation (probably that the supposed "minor" actually wasn't underage) or they simply didn't have much evidence to work with in the first place. Citizen complaints, while a valuable part of keeping businesses honest, sometimes don't give enough information to carry out a successful investigation.
8/04/2017: Information from a law enforcement agency, likely the Houston PD, led the TABC to investigate this location of Ojos Locos for serving or delivering alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person.
TABC officers looked into the allegations but in this case do not seem to have found enough proof of over-service to take any action against the bar. The complaint file was closed on 10/24/2017 without any disposition.
Houston - 4422 N Freeway Suite B
2/05/2016: A law enforcement agency informed the TABC that an alleged breach of the peace took place on the premises.
It's definitely worth noting that this breach of the peace is described on the report as "Aggravated." That means there's a distinct possibility that someone was seriously hurt, particularly by a brandished weapon. I spoke a little about this before in a different article, but a bar is unfortunately a wonderland of items to swing when a disagreement gets rowdy. That's not even counting whatever a patron may have had in a pocket before things got heated.
The details of the breach aren't published on the TABC complaint report, but whatever happened the investigators don't seem to have found sufficient proof of any Beverage Code violations to take any action against Ojos Locos. The complaint was closed without disposition on 2/05/2016.
4/26/2017: An employee of the bar ("Licensee/Permittee," in official language) contacted the TABC to report a possible incident in which the establishment served or delivered alcohol to an intoxicated person.
According to the complaint form the agency launched a breach investigation, which is usually reserved for incidents involving a reported breach of the peace (or a failure to report one). No breach allegations are listed on the complaint ticket, but it's possible the TABC got wind of some shenanigans perpetrated by the allegedly over-served patron.
Whatever the circumstances of the employee's original call, TABC investigators were unable to find sufficient evidence of any violations. The ticket was closed without any further action on 5/22/2017.
8/04/2017: A law enforcement agency provided information to the TABC that this location of Ojos Locos allegedly allowed a minor to possess or consume alcohol on its premises. In the same complaint there is an allegation that the bar also served or delivered alcohol to an intoxicated person.
"Allowing a minor to possess or consume alcohol" is a slightly different charge than an allegation that the bar sold or served alcohol to that minor. The establishment is still legally responsible for allowing someone under the age of 21 to drink on site, but if they didn't sell him the alcohol he consumed then they shouldn't be held liable for such activity.
TABC officers looked into the complaint's allegations but were unable to find sufficient evidence to confirm either one. The case file was closed without dispositive action on 11/18/2017.
4/25/2018: The TABC received information from a law enforcement agency alleging that this location sold or served alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Based on these allegations the TABC conducted a source investigation, which are conducted when the TABC learns through second-hand police reports that a drunk person hurt himself or others, most often through drunk driving. The aim of a source investigation in this case would be to confirm that Ojos Locos was the bar that over-served the drunk person.
TABC officers looked into the allegations for over a month, but were unable to find enough evidence to confirm the bar had served too much alcohol to the intoxicated party. Unable to prove the allegation, the agency closed the case without dispositive action on 6/08/2018.
7/19/2018: A concerned citizen notified the TABC that this location of Ojos Locos allegedly sold or served alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Investigators dutifully checked into the allegations, but didn't find sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to pursue any charges. The file was closed without disposition on 8/18/2018.
San Antonio - 5809 Loop 410 Northwest
2/04/2016: A citizen reported this location to the TABC for allegedly selling alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Investigators looked into the claim but were unable to find sufficient evidence that someone was over-served by the bar. The complaint was closed without further action on 2/19/2016.
7/12/2016: A San Antonio citizen reached out to the TABC to notify the agency that Ojos Locos allegedly served alcohol to a minor, as well as had at least one intoxicated staff member at the time.
TABC officers investigated the allegations, but were unable to find sufficient evidence of either violation to take action against Ojos Locos. The complaint was closed without disposition on 8/06/2016.
8/30/2016: A citizen complained to the TABC that this location allegedly served alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Investigators were unable to find sufficient evidence to confirm the claim, and the case was closed on 9/22/2016 without criminal or administrative action taken against the bar.
12/05/2016: A law enforcement agency, probably the SAPD, informed the TABC of a possible situation involving an intoxicated Ojos Locos employee.
Somewhat unusually, the agency apparently opened a source investigation, in which they try to track down the establishment that sold someone alcohol before that person went on to be in an accident or DWI situation. Basically, a source investigation is an attempt to find out where an offender got drunk. Given that the person in question was allegedly the employee of a bar, the answer to that question seems self-evident, but I admit I don't have all the facts. Perhaps the permittee showed up for work already intoxicated and then just had an accident on site.
No matter the circumstances, TABC officers investigated the initial complaint but didn't find sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to merit further criminal or administrative actions. The case was closed shortly after it was opened on 12/17/2016 with no disposition.
5/03/2017: A concerned citizen contacted the TABC to complain that this location of Ojos Locos served or sold alcoholic beverages to a minor.
TABC officers investigated the complaint, but the case was closed on 5/23/2017 with no criminal or administrative action taken against the bar. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes cases are closed fairly quickly when citizen complaints don't contain enough information to successfully conduct a full-length investigation. That's not to say they shouldn't be called in at all; it just means that officers need as much information as possible, and sometimes that's lacking in the initial complaint.
Texas Law Allows Those Harmed by Over-service To Sue Bad Bars
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