Interested in Filing A Dram Shop Lawsuit Against Stuttgarden Tavern? We Have Some Important Information for You
My firm has sued more bars than anyone else in Texas, so I know the terrible toll that over-service can take on those affected. But I'm not sure that the general public has the same level of awareness, so I try to do what I can to improve their level of understanding with commentary and sponsorship of public events. Another avenue by which I attempt to accomplish this goal is looking through the TABC's records of complaints and publicizing my findings. If you have a potential Dram Shop case you would like to discuss, please call me at (855) 326-0000.
Stuttgarden Tavern is a German-themed biergarten and restaurant with several locations, the most notable of them in Galveston. Departing a little bit from its heritage by offering tropical drink specials and a beachfront location, the tavern has remained fairly popular among locals and tourists alike since it opened in July 2014.
In the alcohol service industry, brisk business also means occasional run-ins with the law, and Stuttgarden Tavern appears to be no exception. The bar has had several encounters with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC); the agency's officers were called to investigate complaints of misconduct ten times since the beginning of 2016.
Note: Investigations are not guarantees of guilt. Just because a complaint was filed does not mean that Stuttgarden Tavern actually violated alcohol-service laws. However, even if sufficient evidence of a violation is not found, that doesn't necessarily mean the bar is innocent--only that the allegation couldn't be proven. In order to make any claims stick, investigators have to find irrefutable evidence that there was a violation of Texas dram shop law. Due to the nature of the offenses, that proof can be difficult to find. All we're doing here is relaying publicly-available information about incidents where the TABC has investigated Stuttgarden Tavern for possible criminal or administrative violations.
TABC Investigations of Stuttgarden Tavern Locations Since 2016
Galveston - 2110 Strand
6/27/2016: A citizen contacted the TABC to complain that Stuttgarden Tavern allegedly sold or served alcohol to a person under the age of 21, as well as claiming that the tavern sold alcohol to an intoxicated person.
TABC officers investigated the complaint for a little over two months, but apparently were unable to find sufficient evidence to verify either allegation. The complaint was closed without criminal or administrative action on 9/04/2016.
8/09/2016: The TABC was informed by a Galveston citizen that Stuttgarden Tavern allegedly sold alcohol to an intoxicated party. This manner of over-service is unfortunately quite common in bars, and is the source of the vast majority of drunk driving crashes. That is not to say that the tavern is specifically liable in this situation, but as a leading Texas dram shop firm we do see a great number of similar accusations.
TABC officers investigated the citizen's complaints. It appears from the report that investigators were unable to find enough evidence to confirm any of the allegations, nor did they witness any other offenses during the course of their probe. The complaint was closed without disposition on 9/06/2016.
9/12/2016: A citizen once again notified the TABC that this location allegedly sold or served alcohol to an intoxicated person.
Observing its duty to investigate complaints made by the public, the agency looked into the over-service allegations. After a month's worth of investigation (standard TABC inquiries last between one and two months on average), agents apparently were unable to find enough evidence to confirm the initial complaint. In this time they also do not appear to have seen similar incidents of over-service take place.
The complaint was closed without dispositive action on 10/23/2016.
10/28/2016: Just a few days after the previous complaint against this location of Stuttgarden Tavern was closed in the TABC system, a concerned patron alerted the TABC of complaints that the bar allegedly sold or served alcohol to a minor, and also permitted customers to remove alcohol from the bar's premises.
Just about everyone knows that serving alcohol to a minor is prohibited by federal and state laws that establish the legal drinking age as 21 years old. Nevertheless, the struggle between the law and overambitious bars/the teens that want to drink at them has raged for decades. Be it an interest in capitalizing on a forbidden market or just an accidental failure to properly check ID, sometimes these establishments do serve booze to people who aren't allowed to have it.
The other accusation doesn't come across our desks as much, but it's still a matter of law in most states: Bars and restaurants cannot permit customers to walk out the door with open alcoholic containers. The drinks have to be consumed on-site in all but a handful of destinations (including Las Vegas and New Orleans; go figure). The drunker customers get, the harder it is for them to grasp or remember this simple principle, and many times they try to wander out the door clutching their cocktails. A bar has to stop them in these instances or it violates the law.
TABC investigators checked out both complaints made by the citizen, but don't appear to have found sufficient evidence to back up either allegation. The complaint was closed after a 3-month investigation on 1/25/2017, with no further action taken against Stuttgarden Tavern.
9/25/2017: A Galveston citizen (Galvestonian?) submitted a complaint to the TABC, indicating that Stuttgarden Tavern allegedly served or sold alcohol to a person who was already intoxicated.
Officers were sent out by the state agency to investigate these charges, which if confirmed could have cost the bar thousands of dollars in fines or even a termination of their liquor license (if they were repeat or egregious offenders). In this instance, investigators did not find sufficient evidence of over-service to take any further action against the tavern. The complaint was closed without disposition on 10/18/2017.
1/22/2018: A concerned Stuttgarden patron complained to the TABC that the tavern allegedly served or sold alcohol to a person who was already intoxicated.
The agency investigated the allegations, but their report does not indicate they found enough evidence to support taking further action against the bar. The complaint was closed without dispositive action on 2/17/2018.
1/24/2018: Just two short days after a previous complaint was filed with the TABC about this bar serving alcohol to an intoxicated party, the agency again heard from a concerned citizen. This time the allegation related to the bar allowing a patron to remove alcoholic beverages from the premises.
In a party town like Galveston (a popular destination for vacationers and college students looking for an affordable place to spend Spring Break), it seems quite likely that possible infractions like this could happen. It seems like an understandable instinct to take a cocktail and go over to watch the waves, but such behavior isn't permitted by the Texas Alcohol Beverage Code.
The agency looked into the citizen's claim, but the TABC report does not look like they found sufficient evidence to take any further action against the bar. The complaint was closed without dispositive action on 2/09/2018. That's a relatively quick turnaround for an official TABC investigation; it is unclear why the agency may not have needed the more customary one to two months to complete its work.
3/12/2018: A concerned citizen alerted the TABC that this tavern allegedly sold or served alcohol to a person under the age of 21.
The TABC looked into the claim of service to a minor, but it does not appear they were able to confirm the allegation. It is a difficult charge to prove without recorded visual evidence or a repeat offense in the presence of TABC officers. The complaint was closed without criminal or administrative action taken on 4/04/2018.
Kemah - 609 Bradford Avenue Suite 203-05
3/31/2017: A citizen contacted the TABC to complain that this location of the Stuttgarden Tavern sold or served alcohol to a minor.
Officers of the TABC investigated the claim, but it does not appear they were able to confirm the tavern served drinks to a minor per the allegations. The complaint was closed without administrative or criminal action on 4/14/2017.
Texas City - 10000 Emmett F Lowery Expressway, Suite 1346
1/06/2017: A citizen contacted the TABC to complain that the bar allegedly sold or served alcohol during prohibited hours of operation.
According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, a bar must stop service at 1 a.m. (2 a.m. if they are in an area approved for "late hours.") Sometimes a location remains open later than this time if it feels there is opportunity for continued profit at a minimal risk of discovery, or if the proprietor wants to drink with friends, or one of several other reasons. None of these are excused by the provisions of the Code; 2 a.m. is an ironclad closing time in Texas.
Service during prohibited hours is a civil violation punishable with a fine up to $2100 for a first offense. However, TABC officers do not appear to have found sufficient evidence that the bar sold or served alcohol after closing time. This complaint was closed without further action taken on 2/12/2017.
Texas Law Allows Victims of Over-service to Sue Negligent Bars
If you would like to learn more about Texas Dram Shop/liquor liability law, we encourage you to look over our extensive overview of the subject here.