Considering A Dram Shop Case Against Sugar Shack? Here's What You Need To Know
I've sued more reckless bars for failing to adhere to liquor laws than anyone else in the state of Texas. With three decades of experience and hundreds of cases behind me, I have seen just how frequently bars put profit before safety and over-serve alcohol, in spite of their legal obligation to serve responsibly. While the general public might see or hear of drunk driving accidents from time to time, it doesn't tend to hear as much about the role that irresponsible bars play in those accidents. In order to raise more awareness of this topic, I spend a portion of my time researching the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission's complaint database and writing about my findings here on my website. If you think you might have a dram shop (liquor liability) claim, don't hesitate to call my office at (855) 326-0000.
Sugar Shack is a bar located in Fulton, Texas. With two patios, a beer garden, live music, and karaoke, it has established a reputation with locals that is much stronger than one would imagine given its small size. In recent years though, the bar has also attracted a disproportionate amount of attention from the TABC due to a significant number of complaints alleging liquor law violations. Between 2015 and 2019, authorities conducted no fewer than eight investigations into Sugar Shack's alcohol service practices.
In my three decades of legal practice, rarely have I seen bar end up involved in a wrongful death or injury case that didn't have a history of complaints on file with TABC. Almost every bar I've ever sued was already on the authorities radar, so when I see a bar that has been investigated several times over a short period, it raises my concern that it could one day play a part in an accident.
Note: Investigations are not proof of wrongdoing. However, if authorities investigate and fail to find evidence, 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 Sugar Shack for possible criminal or administrative violations.
TABC Investigations of Sugar Shack Between 2015 and 2019
Fulton - 106 N Fulton Beach Road
On 01/28/2015, a member of staff reached out to the TABC and alleged that the bar sold alcohol to an intoxicated patron. While it might seem odd that an employee would file a TABC complaint, staff is in fact under a legal obligation to report any liquor law violations they see on the job.
The TABC looked into the matter and was able to find sufficient evidence to prove an administrative violation had occurred. After deciding not to hand down any punishment, authorities closed this case on 03/10/2015.
A citizen complaint, filed on 04/01/2016, claimed that the bar permitted the consumption of alcohol during prohibited hours and committed other miscellaneous violations.
After looking into the allegations for more than a month, authorities were not able to turn up enough evidence of wrongdoing to issue a citation. 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 none in this particular instance, agents decided to end their work on the investigation on 05/10/2016.
The TABC received another citizen complaint on 06/27/2017, this time alleging that the bar sold alcohol to a patron who was already over the limit.
The ensuing investigation was not successful at proving a violation took place. Unable to take any further action, investigators decided to close the case on 08/09/2017.
A member of the Fulton community contacted the TABC on 02/06/2018, charging again that the bar sold alcohol to a drunk patron.
An investigation followed soon thereafter, but due to a lack of video evidence, TABC agents could not prove whether a violation had occurred. As a result, the case came to an end on 04/05/2018.
Law enforcement filed a complaint, dated 05/23/2018, accusing the bar of delivering alcohol to an inebriated person.
Investigators spent nearly two months working on this case, but they were not able to locate any evidence or a violation capable of standing up in court. Having no other course of action available, authorities shut this case on 07/20/2018.
On 09/28/2018, another law enforcement complaint claimed the bar sold alcohol to a drunk customer.
As in many of the previous investigations, agents could not establish the validity of the claim because there was not any video evidence available. Consequently, the case concluded on 11/19/2018.
The TABC returned to investigate again on 12/20/2018 after receiving a complaint from law enforcement alleging that a breach of the peace (typically a fight) took place, that a staff member was drinking on the job, and that the bar sold alcohol to an intoxicated person. The second allegation is more serious than it might appear on the surface. Staff are legally obligated to stop serving alcohol to customers who exhibit signs of being dangerously intoxicated. If the staff itself is intoxicated, its ability to perform this essential function is compromised.
As previously noted, the TABC relies heavily on video evidence to determine the veracity of most allegations - including those made by the police. Since there was no such proof available in this case, authorities were unable to corroborate the claims. On 02/03/2019, the investigation came to a close.
On 07/10/2019, a further law enforcement complaint brought the TABC back to the bar once more. This time, the allegations were the same as in the previous investigation: a breach of the peace, sale of alcohol to an intoxicated person, and staff drinking on the job.
Just like in the last investigation, authorities were not able to prove that any violation took place. Having no other course of action available, agents closed this case on 08/27/2019.
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.