What You Should Know If You Are Thinking about a Liquor Liability Case against Topgolf
Over the last 30 years, I have sued more bars for irresponsibly over-serving alcohol than any other lawyer in Texas. I'm all too aware of what an issue this is, but many people have no idea just how often it happens. In order to call more attention to this problem, I spend a portion of my time investigating Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission complaint records and reporting what I find here on my website. If you think you may have a dram shop (liquor liability) claim and are unsure about how to proceed, please call me at (855) 326-0000.
Topgolf founders Steve and Dave Jolliffe created their company back in the year 2000 in Watford, England. The twin brothers wanted to create a new kind of golf experience - one without all the waiting around. They also envisioned food and drink service, as well as golf balls tracked by microchips. The early years were very slow going, however. After failing in other locations, the concept hit it big in Dallas. From that first successful location, the company has grown to include 57 more across the U.S., U.K., and Australia. With hundreds of millions in revenue, it's safe to say Topgolf is a booming business.
While it isn't possible to predict exactly when a tragedy will strike due to liquor law violations, we can make an educated guess about which bars will most likely be involved. One thing that almost every bar I ever sued had in common was a history of prior TABC investigations. For this reason, I pay close attention to the ones that appear in the TABC complaint records. Topgolf happens to be a name that has been appearing in those records quite frequently in the last few years.
One thing needs to be made clear: when an investigation occurs, it does not mean the bar in question committed a violation. All it means is that authorities felt there was enough evidence to warrant a closer look. No bar should be presumed to have broken the law until convicted in court. By the same token, if authorities investigate a bar but close the case without taking action, it could indicate either innocence or simply insufficient evidence for a conviction. What follows is a list of TABC investigations into Topgolf in recent years.
Topgolf Locations that TABC Investigated between 2016 and 2019
Pharr - 1901 Ih 2 West
On 03/04/2019, an unnamed member of the Pharr community lodged a complaint with TABC claiming that staff at this location had sold alcohol to a minor.
In the ensuing investigation, authorities found no definitive proof of wrongdoing. Thus, they closed the case on 04/30/2019.
Fort Worth - 2201 E 4th Street
This complaint is slightly unusual due to its source: an employee. Odd though it may seem, bars are legally obligated to report themselves to the authorities for any violations they see occur. The report claims that on 05/18/2017, the bar sold alcohol to an intoxicated customer.
Even though an employee claimed the bar had violated the law, without sufficiently strong evidence, TABC cannot do much more than open and close an investigation without taking further action. Thus, authorities closed this case on 7/16/2017.
Filed on 10/30/2018, this complaint originated from an unidentified source and alleged that a customer at this location possessed an alcoholic beverage acquired off the premises.
While most of the claims TABC investigates are difficult to prove, this one is exceptionally so. Not surprisingly, investigators found no evidence that would stand up in court and dropped the matter on 11/06/2018.
El Paso - 365 Vin Rambla Drive
A citizen complaint on 09/26/2018 claimed that staff sold alcohol to an intoxicated customer at this location. TABC then followed up with an investigation.
Expectedly, the inquiry could not uncover any evidence capable of securing a conviction. Thus, the investigation concluded on 12/02/2018.
Spring - 560 Spring Park Center Boulevard
In 2017, there were two complaints within just two months of each other at this location.
A citizen filed the first complaint on 03/29/2017. It alleged that the bar permitted an employee under the age of 18 to sell or handle alcohol.
TABC took a look into the claim but was unable to produce any evidence of a criminal or administrative violation. Owing to the circumstances, the investigation ended on 05/01/2017.
Right on the heels of the previous complaint, law enforcement filed another on 5/10/2017. This time, the allegation was for delivering alcohol to a patron who was already over the limit.
TABC's inquiry turned up no evidence capable of producing a conviction in court. Thus, the matter concluded on 6/27/2017.
San Antonio - 5539 N Loop 1604 West
This location was placed under investigation after a complaint filed by law enforcement on 03/28/2018 alleged that two violations had occurred: an aggravated breach of the peace and then a failure to report the alleged breach.
The state of Texas defines a breach of the peace as "an act that disturbs or threatens to disturb the tranquility enjoyed by the citizens." An aggravated breach of the peace simply means that someone was targeted with the disruptive behavior. Most often, when a breach of the peace is reported, it indicates that a physical altercation took place.
If a breach of the peace occurs, a bar must report it to the authorities. Not reporting it violates the law.
TABC investigated this case, but its efforts produced no hard proof and it ended its work on the case on 04/27/2018.
The Colony - 3760 Blair Oaks
Here we have another location investigated more than once in the same year.
The first allegation came on 03/20/2018, claiming that staff had served alcohol to an intoxicated patron. TABC subsequently looked into this citizen complaint, but the investigation did not yield any evidence that would lead to a conviction.
The second citizen complaint alleged the same type of violation - selling alcohol to a drunk person. Received on 09/17/2018, the ensuing investigation closed due to lack of evidence on 10/31/2018.
Austin - 2700 Esperanza Crossing
This last location was under TABC investigation three times from 2016 to 2018.
On 03/31/2016, a citizen complaint triggered a TABC inquiry into whether or not staff had sold alcohol to a minor. After a nearly two-month investigation and lacking sufficient evidence, authorities shut the case on 05/25/2016.
The second complaint that year came on 10/18/2016. A member of the Austin community alleged that the bar allowed a drunk person to purchase more alcohol. TABC performed an investigation soon thereafter.
Being virtually impossible to prove after the fact, TABC was unable to produce any evidence that could make the charge stick. Thus, the matter concluded on 12/16/2016 and authorities took no further action.
The third complaint didn't come until 2018, when a concerned citizen alleged that the bar had again sold alcohol to an intoxicated individual.
TABC again could not prove that any violation had take place. Unable to take further action, authorities closed the case on 03/17/2018.
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.