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Considering A Dram Shop Case Against Smokey's Pit Stop? 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.

Smokey's Pit Stop is a restaurant located in El Paso, Texas. In recent years, it has attracted the attention of the TABC due to allegations of liquor law violations. Between 2018 and 2019 alone, authorities conducted five separate investigations into the restaurant'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 Smokey's Pit Stop for possible criminal or administrative violations.

TABC Investigations of Smokey's Pit Stop Between 2018 and 2019


El Paso - 9100 Viscount Boulevard Suite J

Allegations:

On 01/03/2018, a concerned citizen filed a complaint with the TABC, 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.

Authorities looked into the matter 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 02/16/2018.

A member of the El Paso community reached out to the TABC on 05/23/2018, claiming that the restaurant sold alcohol during prohibited hours.

Upon investigation, authorities found evidence that the restaurant allowed multiple customers to consume alcohol during prohibited hours, which they classified as both a criminal and administrative violation. After handing down an unspecified penalty, the TABC closed the case on 07/03/2018.

The TABC received another citizen complaint on 09/26/2018, alleging that staff was drinking on the job and sold alcohol during prohibited hours.

As mentioned in the first investigation summary, the TABC relies heavily on video footage to back up most claims of wrongdoing. Since authorities had no such evidence in this investigation, they could not take any action, leading to their decision to close the case on 11/20/2018.

The next citizen complaint to reach the TABC came on 03/12/2019, alleging that staff was drinking on the job.

TABC agents conducted an inquiry, but due to a lack of video evidence, they could not determine the veracity of the claim. As a result, investigators could not take any further action, leading to their decision to close the case on 05/21/2019.

Yet another citizen complaint, filed on 08/28/2019, alleged that staff allowed customers to drink alcohol during prohibited hours.

An investigation ensued, but authorities were ultimately unable to find any evidence to corroborate the claim. Left with no other option, the TABC concluded its work on the case on 10/22/2019.

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.