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Considering A Dram Shop Case Against Old Chicago? Here's What You Need To Know

I've held more bars accountable for irresponsible alcohol service practices than any other lawyer in Texas. The hundreds of cases I've handled over the last 30 years have shown me just how many bars regularly over-serve their patrons, not to mention the tragic consequences that often result. While the public might see or hear about a drunk driving accident from time to time, it is less common to hear about the role that reckless bars play in those accidents. In order to call more attention to this issue, I dedicate part of my time to reviewing the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's complaint records and reporting my findings here on my website. If you think you might have a dram shop (liquor liability) case, don't hesitate to call me at (855) 326-0000.

Old Chicago is a chain of pizzerias and taprooms owned by CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries. Between franchised operations and those under CraftWorks management, the brand includes 139 locations spanning 22 states. While Old Chicago has clearly established itself as a successful business, its alcohol service practices have come into question on several occasions in recent times. Between 2017 and 2019, TABC agents conducted eight investigations at locations across the Lone Star State due to allegations of liquor law violations.

In my experience, it is 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 evidence that a bar has broken the law. Investigators must have sufficient proof that there was a violation of TABC regulations in order to take legal action. Owing to the nature of liquor law violations, that proof can often be difficult for authorities to obtain. The purpose of this article is simply to relay publicly-available information about incidents where the TABC has investigated Old Chicago for possible criminal or administrative violations.

TABC Investigations of Old Chicago Between 2017 and 2019


Cedar Hill - 436 Hwy 67 North

Allegations:

On 10/12/2018, Law enforcement filed a complaint with TABC alleging that this location sold alcohol to an intoxicated patron.

TABC agents looked into the matter, but after nearly a month of investigation, they could not determine the veracity of the claim. For most liquor law violations, the TABC needs either video evidence of the incident or eyewitness testimony from one of its agents in order to take action - even a cop's word will not suffice. Having neither in this particular instance, authorities decided to close this case on 11/06/2018.


Fort Worth - 8933 N Freeway

Allegations:

The TABC received a citizen complaint on 02/21/2019, alleging that the bar sold alcohol to a patron who was already over the limit.

The ensuing investigation was not able to turn up enough evidence of wrongdoing for authorities to issue a citation. As a result, this case came to a conclusion without further action on 03/21/2019.


Dallas - 5319 E Mockingbird Lane Suite 100

Allegations:

An unnamed source lodged a complaint with TABC on 08/04/2017 that alleged staff at this locations was drinking on the job. This kind of claim is more serious than it might appear at first glance. The bar staff has a legal responsibility to cut off service to patrons who exhibit signs of being dangerously intoxicated. However, if the staff itself is intoxicated, its ability to determine when to do so is compromised.

Authorities spent over two months working on the case, but they were unable to locate any hard evidence of a violation. On 10/07/2017, they brought the investigation to a close.


Waco - 4641 S Jack Kultgen Expressway

Allegations:

On 02/14/2018, a member of the Waco community contacted the TABC, claiming that staff at this location was intoxicated.

As mentioned earlier, without video evidence, it is next to impossible for the TABC to corroborate such an allegation. Since it had no such proof on this occasion, TABC closed the case on 04/16/2018.

Just a few months later, on 05/17/2018, another complaint against this location claimed that the bar sold alcohol to a drunk customer.

Once again, authorities investigated, but failed to uncover any proof of a criminal or administrative violation. Having no other course of action available, they opted to end their efforts on 07/05/2018.

Within a week of the conclusion of the previous investigation, TABC agents were back at this location again thanks to a law enforcement complaint on 07/11/2018. The allegation was two counts of serving alcohol to an inebriated patron.

However, despite the source of the complaint being a police officer, the TABC issued no citations due to a lack of hard evidence. On 09/06/2018, the case concluded without further action.

A citizen complaint on 10/29/2018 alleged that staff sold alcohol to a minor and permitted gambling on the premises.

Authorities spent nearly two months on the case, but as usual, they had no video evidence and therefore could take no action. On 12/21/2018, they chose to close the case.

On 05/20/2019, a concerned citizen reached out to TABC and claimed that the bar sold alcohol to a customer under the age of 21.

Due to a lack of video evidence, the subsequent investigation was unable to determine whether or not a violation had occurred. Consequently, authorities chose to end their work on the matter on 07/17/2019.

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.