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April 9, 2021

TABC Reminds Texans of the Tragic Dangers of Not Drinking Responsibly

AUSTIN — As Texans return to bars and restaurants following the end of pandemic restrictions, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is asking residents and businesses to remember that they have a part to play in combating overconsumption and keeping Texans safe. The agency, which regulates the manufacture, distribution and sale of alcohol across Texas, is observing Alcohol Awareness Month throughout April. The yearly observance is part of an effort by all levels of government to provide help to people with alcohol use disorder. “Alcohol is an important part of the Texas economy, and the vast majority of consumers and businesses do the right thing by consuming and serving responsibly,” said TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles. “Unfortunately when a small number of people neglect the laws that protect our health and safety, it’s often innocent Texans who end up paying the price.” As the state’s sole alcohol regulator, TABC agents investigate cases where the illegal sale or service of alcohol leads to serious injury or death. Some recent high-profile cases illustrate how failure to follow the law can result in tragic loss of life: 2016: Jocelyn Valero — Houston-area restaurant El Muelle was the subject of a joint TABC/Harris County District Attorney’s Office investigation after staff were alleged to have sold alcohol to Edin Palacios, who was later accused of causing the death of Jocelyn Valero in an alcohol-related crash as she was returning from her prom. The investigation found that Palacios had been allowed to consume nearly a dozen beers before leaving the business. He was later sentenced to 32 years in prison, and the business was charged with selling alcohol to an intoxicated person and paid a $15,000 fine. The bartender who served the drinks was also arrested and charged with selling alcohol to an intoxicated person. 2017: Matthew Ellis — Matthew Ellis, 20, had just arrived at Texas State University in San Marcos and attended a pledge party for the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. A few hours later, he was found unresponsive in a nearby apartment with a blood-alcohol level of .38 (four times the legal limit). Ellis died of alcohol poisoning, and it was determined that 21-year-old Austin Rice, a sophomore, had illegally provided the alcohol that contributed to Ellis’ death. Rice was sentenced to two years’ probation, and the Phi Kappa Psi Texas State chapter had its charter revoked by the fraternity’s national organization. 2018: Chloe Robison and Salma Gomez — A crash involving a 17-year-old driver who had purchased alcohol from a Humble convenience store left two Atascocita High School students dead and a store clerk charged with selling alcohol to a minor. Gumaro Munoz Campos of Humble was arrested by TABC and charged with selling alcohol to a minor after an investigation uncovered evidence indicating he sold alcohol to Jaggar Smith, 17, the night of the accident. Smith was later charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter after the car he was driving struck a tree, killing passengers Chloe Robison and Salma Gomez. Both girls were scheduled to begin their junior year of high school just weeks after the accident. In addition to encouraging responsible service and consumption, TABC wants to be sure Texans with substance use disorders know help is available: Texas Health and Human Services outreach, screening, assessment and referral (OSAR) service U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline: 800-662-4357 (800-662-HELP) For more information on responsible alcohol service, visit TABC’s YouTube channel. Media Contact: Chris Porter Public Information Officer media@tabc.texas.gov

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March 31, 2021

Most Businesses Put Safety First During Spring Break Celebrations

AUSTIN — Leaders from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are expressing thanks to alcoholic beverage industry members after a three-week statewide operation found the vast majority of businesses took action to prevent alcohol sales to minors and intoxicated patrons during the busy spring break period. The large-scale operation, the first following Gov. Greg Abbott’s order to fully reopen Texas bars and restaurants March 10, worked to identify businesses that improperly sold alcohol in violation of the Alcoholic Beverage Code. Under state law, it’s illegal to sell alcohol to a person who is younger than 21 or intoxicated. In total, TABC agents conducted 2,322 inspections between March 11–28, filing just 75 administrative cases against licensed businesses. Most inspections took place along the Texas Gulf Coast, and in urban centers with major colleges or universities. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the results of this year’s operations,” TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles said. “For many of these businesses, spring break represented the first time they could fully open their doors in more than a year. Despite this, the vast majority of businesses placed the safety of their customers first and were able to enjoy a safe and successful spring break.” Businesses which sell alcohol to a minor or an intoxicated person could face possible TABC administrative action, such as a civil fine or a suspension of the business’ alcohol license. Employees who improperly sell alcohol could also face a misdemeanor criminal charge, leading to a fine or jail time. To learn more about TABC’s public safety efforts, visit tabc.texas.gov/public-safety. Media Contact: Chris Porter Public Information Officer media@tabc.texas.gov

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March 17, 2021

Industry Spotlight: The Oyster Bar Restaurant

Welcome to the first edition of a new online series from TABC, where we’ll bring you the stories behind your favorite bars, restaurants, businesses and drinks. The alcoholic beverage industry in Texas is as diverse as the state itself. Whether it’s a place you enjoy with family and friends over dinner, the brewer of your favorite beer, or the store down the road, we want to share the rich history of TABC license holders. To start, the agency is selecting businesses that have some of the longest-standing licenses and permits and no recent history of violations. That’s why our first Industry Spotlight profile features the Oyster Bar Restaurant, which has been in business for more than 70 years. The Oyster Bar Restaurant Owner: Justo Barrientes Jr.General Manager: Mary LompraLocation: South TexasEstablished: 1950 (original location)

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March 8, 2021

Executive Order Allows All Businesses to Open at Full Capacity on March 10

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-34, lifting the mask mandate in Texas and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in the state to 100% beginning Wednesday, March 10 at 12:01 a.m. Read Gov. Abbott’s full news release. View the TABC Coronavirus Information page.

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March 1, 2021

TABC Agents Working To Protect Health and Safety of Texans During Spring Break

AUSTIN — Agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will visit liquor stores, bars, beaches and other locations where alcohol is sold throughout March as the agency kicks off its annual spring break public safety operations next week. The operations identify locations where alcohol is sold to minors and intoxicated persons in violation of state law. Planned activities for 2021 include undercover operations, in which TABC agents covertly monitor business operations for compliance, as well as efforts to ensure intoxicated patrons aren’t served alcohol. “The goal of this operation is not to penalize retailers, but to help them understand the importance of following the law and putting the safety of their customers first,” TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles said. Before the operations, TABC auditors will contact several alcohol retailers in the most popular spring break destinations to provide education and answer questions about best practices for preventing the sale of alcohol to minors and intoxicated persons. Businesses that sell alcohol to people younger than 21 could face a civil fine or suspension of their license to sell alcohol. Employees who conduct the sale could also find themselves charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail. Most of the operations will take place in and around cities with major colleges or universities and popular destinations along the Texas Gulf Coast. Other operations will occur during spring break to include investigating suspected organized crime such as human trafficking, narcotics trafficking and money laundering. To learn more about TABC’s public safety efforts, visit tabc.texas.gov/public-safety. (This article was updated March 3, 2021, to align TABC’s enforcement efforts with Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order No. GA-34.) Media Contact: Chris Porter Public Information Officer media@tabc.texas.gov

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