TABC Does Dallases

jack-rubya.jpgIt’s getting tough to run a nightclub in Texas these days, especially if it’s of the honky tonk variety. Pop country hits and a smooth dance floor just aren’t enough to keep the kickers happy, no matter how many times you play “Friends in Low Places.” To have Gilley’s-esque flirting and fighting, you need booze to flow. Unfortunately for Dallas Night Club, that booze attracted the attention of APD, leading to subsequent undercover operations and arrests courtesy of the sternly paternalistic folks over at the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

In retaliation, Dallas Night Club is suing the TABC, accusing the state agency of unfairly targeting the bar and harshing the pop country buzz they’ve been dishing out for over two decades. The lawsuit asserts that the commission’s enforcement efforts are unconstitutional – invoking a little-known provision in the Civil Rights Act that prevents discrimination against pressed Wranglers – and accuses the TABC of “a deliberate and knowing course of conduct to drive Dallas out of business.”

About 200 miles north of Burnet Rd, Phil Jones might be thinking those exact words. The CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau is incensed that TABC has been making similar P.I. arrests in Big D. Unlike the eponymous Austin nightclub where everyone has to drive to and from their 69-cent beer, the Dallas CVB has out-of-towners getting busted in their hotel bars before they even THINK of driving. Consequently, convention organizers are threatening to cancel their Dallas events and move to places with a more permissive attitude towards drunken shenanigans. Jones commented that “if you think they would even consider doing something like this in Las Vegas, you’re fooling yourself,” not least because TABC’s jurisdiction ends in El Paso.

It’s hard to imagine a less sympathetic threesome. First, there’s the cheesy nightclub that leads the city in drunk driving arrests, suing for its right to sell beer at 1977 prices. Next there’s the big city tourism organization, complaining that Dallas visitors should be given more leeway to embarrass themselves at Dick’s Last Resort rather than in hotel lobbies. And finally, the TABC are the jack-booted embodiment of Bible Belt morality, making up their own rules as they violate the unwritten Texan commandment “thou shall not get in the way of good times.”

Fortunately this conflict appears headed for the public forum of a Texas court room, where the confluence of trial lawyers and political judges may provide unpredictable entertainment, if not resolution.

7 Comments so far

  1. Shriz-noat (unregistered) on April 17th, 2006 @ 9:26 am

    Ultimately, Cubans are to blame.

  2. M1EK (unregistered) on April 17th, 2006 @ 10:43 am

    Actually, I sympathize a lot with that Big City Tourist Organization. PI laws are stupid, and are just a way for cops to have another tool at their disposal for selective-enforcement-driven harassment.

    If you’re drunk and you pee on a building, you’ve committed a non-PI crime. If you’re drunk and you throw up on somebody’s shoes, you’ve committed a non-PI crime. If you’re drunk, and you get behind the wheel, you’ve committed a non-PI crime.

    But if you’re drunk, and you’re not bothering anybody, what offense (ethically) have you committed?

  3. wae (unregistered) on April 17th, 2006 @ 6:14 pm

    Can’t argue with you M1EK. PI is an incredibly abused law that often has the perverse effect of harrassing people who walk rather than drive after drinking.

    But I still think the Dallas CVB is ripe for ridicule. Any downtown that sets Vegas as their standard deserves all the peeing and puking that their uninspired efforts will generate.

  4. Willis (unregistered) on April 18th, 2006 @ 1:41 am

    This policy is just plain bad. I had six friends at what might be the tamest bar in central Austin get arrested. It’s bad enough that one person literally lived underneath the bar, but another one lived next door. Yet another one lived down the street. The other two had been working across the street and couldn’t possibly be drunk… the crime? Trying to explain the whole mess to the TABC officers.

    If TABC wants to protect us from drunk drivers, they should surrender their funds to the local law enforcement agencies whose job it is to do so. We don’t need overzealous desk-jockeys turned field agents running denying us our civil liberties just so the agency can justify its existence.

  5. Dave (unregistered) on April 19th, 2006 @ 9:07 am

    It amazes me some of the crap you low life losers post. I have seen TABC in action and for the most part they do a good job. I think it is a good policy to keep drunk drivers off the streets and highly intoxicated people out of bars. There is no reason for someone to be in a bar stumbling or puking in bars.

    Everyone has a problem until someone they know is killed or injured by a drunk driver or a fight breaks out in a bar and some one is injured.

    Willis your comment about surrendering funding to local law enforcment is dumb for 2 reasons: one local law enforcement would not apply those funds diredctly to DWI Enforcement and two it does not work now with the amount of DWI Enforcment. More DWI enforcement is not the answer. Why not attack it at the source the bars.

    However I do agree that people who are intoxicated and are not driving and not causing a problem should not be arrested but released to a responsible party. Those who party responsible should not be held criminal liable.

  6. ttrentham (unregistered) on April 19th, 2006 @ 9:57 am

    Wow, Dave. Your opening sentence is a little harsh don’t you think? If you want join in the discussion, insulting people with your opening sentence isn’t going to help your cause.

    On top of that, you appear to be agreeing with the general complaint with this policy at the end of your comment. So, do you want the “low life losers” arrested in the bar or not?

    I too have seen the TABC in action from the perspective of someone who’s run afoul of them and someone who worked in the bar industry where they hold so much power. They tend to be overbearing and sanctimonious. Did you know that a bartender can be fined for wearing a shirt with a beer or alcohol logo on it behind the bar? Seems kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it? Sounds a little like an agency promoting ridiculous laws to enforce and justify their own existence. Try asking any bar owner on Sixth Street about how reasonable the TABC can be.

    As an aside, did you know that the TABC was formed just after the repeal of prohibition? Do you know how many other states have an agency whose primary mandate is to regulate alcohol?

    It’s a question of how far you want this to go. If we’re going to start putting law enforcement into bars and arresting people based on a law that’s subject to a wide range of interpretation, why not just outlaw alcohol completely? Let’s be honest. The reason people are in bars is to drink and, generally, most people will drink enough while there to at least come close to the .08 percent BAC that’ll get you in trouble for driving. It only takes three drinks for the average-sized guy.

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that we shouldn’t arrest people for drunk driving. I don’t think anyone is arguing that someone who is drunk and either disobeying bar staff or starting fights should be arrested, but this sting operation borders or even crosses the line of arresting people before they’ve committed a crime. Is that what you want?

    There’re all sorts of economic implications to this, which is why the tourist bureau got involved. How much tax revenue and money do you think is generated on Sixth Street on an average Friday or Saturday night?

  7. wae (unregistered) on April 19th, 2006 @ 11:08 am

    What amazes me, Dave, is that you’re OK with people getting hauled away for perfectly legal activity. This isn’t about drunk drivers and underaged drinkers running amok, but rather the hypocrisy of a state that allows bars to sell all manner of liquor, allows people to drink it, but then comes in and cracks skulls whenever they see fit. Have you ever had a BAC of .08? Think you should go to jail for it? Assuming that .08 is the correct limit at which people (other than Dr. Johnny Fever) are dangerous behind the wheel, how is that possibly a reasonable standard for people to be a “danger to themselves” when they are minding their own business?

    The problem comes to a head when nightclubs and convention centers basically pimp themselves out as drunk factories. I’m not going to cut Dallas (the club) much slack since they had the opportunity to address the issue after APD released their arrest data, but even so you could argue that they’re just operating within the rules that are written. It’s every person’s responsibility to avoid crossing the line into harming others, but TABC seems happy to redraw that line without regard for consistency, reality, or legality.

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