Complaints following a series of “sales to intoxicated person stings” in Irving have prompted the suspension of a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission program allowing officers to make arrests within bars, said a public information officer with the TABC.Carolyn Beck, a TABC public information officer, said the TABC is taking “a step back” in order to assess the program, as well as in response to complaints received regarding the March arrests. Beck could not say how many complaints have been received in total.
On March 10, a series of “stings” involving 29 Irving establishments resulted in 26 arrests, which included 17 for public intoxication and five for sales to an intoxicated person, Beck said.
“We have temporarily suspended our program while we’re on an information-gathering mission,” Beck said.
Joshua Loewen, 23, a bartender at The Moon on Berry Street, said he thinks the program is “intelligent and smart, but not well-executed.”
“I think it’s pretty unfair because you can go out with a group of people and a designated driver and (the TABC) can still arrest you,” Loewen said.
Loewen said he knows the rules about serving but added “nobody drinks one drink an hour.”
“Nobody walks around with a meter over their head,” Loewen said. “It’s all a judgment call.”
Loewen expressed concern about the possibility he could be arrested for serving an intoxicated patron or overserving a customer to the point of intoxication.
“You go to work and could end up in jail,” Loewen said.
Dre Lasher, 23, currently works at The Cellar on Berry Street and said she has served drinks for five years.
“I cut off a lot of people,” Lasher said. “(But the program) is a good thing because I can’t keep an eye on everyone.”
Despite the complaints and suspension, Lasher said, she thinks the program will return.
The stings may return within one month, although nothing is certain, Beck said.
The statewide program uses existing Texas laws allowing TABC officers to issue alcohol-related citations to bar patrons as well as bartenders inside bars. After gaining additional funding in 2005, the program has been used increasingly with the intention of reducing the number of alcohol-related accidents, Beck said.
James Shannon, a senior history major, said drunken driving is a problem in Texas but said the stings may not be best solution.
“(Drunken driving) is like a sport here,” Shannon said. “I understand why they’re doing it.”
Shannon said he does not think Fort Worth police presence instills enough fear into students to convince them to stop driving drunk.
Loewen said he hasn’t seen a decline in business since the TABC program began. In fact, he said the week before Easter showed a record for sales but did not say by how much.
Lasher and Loewen said there have been no problems with the TABC so far at The Cellar or The Moon.