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News Releases

Get the latest headlines from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. You can look through all of the agency’s recent news releases on this page.

Members of the media should contact the TABC public information officer to make an inquiry.

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June 22, 2021

Multi-Agency Operation Leads to Arrest of Human Trafficking Suspect and Rescue of Victims

AUSTIN — A multi-agency operation in El Paso has led to the arrest of one alleged human trafficker and the rescue of four victims of human trafficking. On June 15, 35-year-old Mario Josue Escajeda was arrested on aggravated promotion of prostitution, outstanding warrants and charged with unlawfully carrying weapons. Escajeda, the owner of the Outskirts Gentlemen’s Club in El Paso County, allegedly offered to supply women for sex in exchange for money. Agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission conducted the operation at an El Paso hotel with the assistance of the El Paso County Attorney’s Office, El Paso Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and U.S. Homeland Security Investigations. Escajeda arrived at the El Paso hotel with four women and was arrested. He was carrying two concealed handguns and a stash of cash. The four women, whose ages range from 19 to 39, were interviewed by TABC’s victim’s services coordinator and provided assistance. “TABC is committed to using our vital resources to break up these organized criminal enterprises that are preying on women and girls,” TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles said. “We’re thankful for the hard work of all of the local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies that are partnering with us to bring traffickers to justice and rescue victims.” Following the sting, TABC agents executed a search warrant at the Outskirts Gentlemen’s Club. Additional evidence was found Escajeda was allegedly breaking the law. His club was shut down by the El Paso County Attorney’s Office for operating a sexually oriented business without a license and illegally selling alcohol for nine months without a TABC license. Isaac Salazar, the manager of the club, was also arrested during the warrant execution for sale of alcohol without a permit. The El Paso County Attorney’s Office will decide on what additional charges Escajeda may face. The club will remain closed pending the outcome of a temporary injunction hearing scheduled for June 24. As part of the on-going investigation, anyone who may have been victimized by the suspect or who has information about potential victims, is urged to contact the TABC Victims Services Office at 713-494-5869 to file a report. TABC is a critical part of the fight against human trafficking. As the state’s sole regulator of the alcoholic beverage industry, agents can enter a licensed bar, restaurant, hotel or other alcohol retailer to investigate suspected trafficking. TABC is committed to using its resources to break up organized criminal enterprises and rescue victims. Media Contact: Chris Porter Public Information Officer media@tabc.texas.gov

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May 26, 2021

TABC To Increase Operations To Stop Alcohol Sales to Minors

AUSTIN — As students across the state prepare to celebrate summer, agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission are ramping up efforts to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors. The agency, which regulates all aspects of the Texas alcohol trade, uses underage compliance operations (UCOs) to identify retailers who violate the state’s age limit on alcohol sales. It’s a crime in Texas to sell alcohol to any person younger than 21. During a UCO, a minor working for TABC attempts to purchase alcohol from a retailer while under surveillance by TABC agents. Businesses found violating the law could face administrative action, such as a fine or temporary suspension of their license to sell alcohol, while the employee who made the sale could face a misdemeanor criminal charge. UCOs have been an important part of TABC’s toolbox for years, but the pace of operations slowed during 2020 as the agency observed COVID-19 safety protocols. “While we’re extremely fortunate that the vast majority of alcohol retailers do the right thing, these underage compliance operations play a critical role when it comes to keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors,” said Bentley Nettles, TABC Executive Director. “Now that Texas’ bars and restaurants are open at full capacity, TABC is committed to ensuring retailers are empowered to decline any sale of alcohol that places public safety at risk.” TABC agents are observing strict health and safety protocols to protect all UCO participants. Participants undergo a COVID-19 rapid test and are screened for contact with the virus before each night’s operation. For more information about TABC and underage compliance operations, visit tabc.texas.gov/public-safety/enforcement-initiatives-operations/. Media Contact: Chris Porter Public Information Officer media@tabc.texas.gov

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May 13, 2021

TABC Urges Businesses To Complete New Licensing Applications by July 31

AUSTIN — The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is urging members of the alcoholic beverage industry to prepare now for a month-long pause in accepting applications for new licenses or permits. The pause must happen for TABC to launch new technology that will revolutionize how the industry conducts business with the agency, letting them easily complete TABC tasks anytime and anywhere. The pause begins Aug. 1 and will remain in place until Sept. 1. TABC will be unable to accept new license or permit applications — including applications for new primary licenses, subordinate licenses, and supplemental changes — during that time. The pause will allow agency staff to migrate industry members’ data from the current system to the new Alcohol Industry Management System (AIMS), which launches Sept. 1. Businesses should view specific instructions and deadlines now on the TABC website. AIMS will usher in a new way of working with TABC that is easier, more efficient and less disruptive to businesses. Texans will be able to apply for a new license or renew their current license entirely online, replacing an old system that required applicants to submit paperwork directly to a TABC office. Business owners can also more easily track their application status, print out licensing forms and required signs, and apply for other TABC programs and initiatives. The month-long licensing pause will affect any industry member looking to apply for an original permit, TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles said. “We certainly understand that this month-long data migration represents a challenge to Texas alcoholic beverage industry members, which is why we’re urging all affected business owners to prepare now,” Nettles said. “Our goal is to minimize the impact to the industry we serve while allowing us to hit the ground running when AIMS comes online Sept. 1.” TABC urges business owners planning to submit an original licensing application to complete their paperwork, as outlined on the TABC 2021 Changes webpages and TABC Rules, and submit payment before July 31. Regular licensing services will resume Sept. 1 using the new AIMS technology. The agency will continue to process applications for new licenses and permits completed by July 31 during the pause, and renewal applications will not be affected. Sept. 1 marks the effective date of several new state laws related to the alcoholic beverage industry, including the merging of multiple license and permit types, as well as changes in malt beverage rules and license fees. To learn more, visit the TABC 2021 Changes webpage. Media Contact: Chris Porter Public Information Officer media@tabc.texas.gov

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May 12, 2021

Alcohol-To-Go Is Now Permanent Law of the Land in Texas

AUSTIN — Texas law now lets customers and businesses safely enjoy alcohol-to-go options. Temporary waivers to provide relief to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic have been updated and made permanent, thanks to recent action by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature. The change comes as part of House Bill 1024, which was approved by the Legislature on April 28 and signed into law by Gov. Abbott on May 12. The law, which took effect immediately after it was signed by the governor, authorizes Mixed Beverage and Private Club permittees to sell alcohol — including mixed drinks — for pickup by customers or delivery, as long as they meet the requirements in the law. Certain other permittees, such as Wine and Beer Retailers, already had authority to send alcohol to go. “This new law will help businesses keep their doors open and ensure Texans keep their jobs,” said TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles. “TABC is grateful to Governor Abbott and members of the Texas Legislature for their leadership on this critically important measure. And a big thank you goes out to the efforts of alcohol retailers who have been safely and responsibly selling alcohol to go under last year’s waiver.” Under the new law, Mixed Beverage and Private Club permittees may: Allow customers to pick up alcohol (i.e., mixed drinks, wine and malt beverages, which will include both beer and ale starting Sept. 1) with food orders. Deliver alcohol with food orders to customers. Use third parties, including agents of the retailer or contractors holding a Consumer Delivery Permit (CD), to make deliveries on their behalf. Alcoholic beverages such as wine or malt beverages must be in their original containers or tamper-proof containers sealed by the retailer and properly labeled when sold for pickup or delivery. Distilled spirits should be sold in an original single-serving container of 375 milliliters maximum. Mixed drinks that contain distilled spirits must be in a tamper-proof container sealed by the retailer with a label that includes the retailer’s business name and the words “alcoholic beverage.” Permit holders must follow all requirements in the law, including holding a Food and Beverage Certificate (FB). Alcoholic beverages picked up or delivered under this authority may not be transported in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. TABC also offers the Texas Responsible Alcohol Delivery Training course specifically for drivers who will be delivering alcoholic beverages directly to consumers. For more information, including guidelines on alcohol delivery, visit tabc.texas.gov. View TABC Alcohol Delivery and Pickup webpage. Media Contact: Chris Porter Public Information Officer media@tabc.texas.gov

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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 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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Jan 11, 2021

TABC Calls on Texans To Help Rescue Victims From Human Traffickers and Promote Message That 'Texans Are Not For Sale'

AUSTIN — The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission joins the state and nations around the world to mark Human Trafficking Prevention Month and is renewing its call for everyday Texans to do their part in fighting organized crime in the Lone Star State. By reporting suspicious activity and promoting human trafficking awareness, everyone can help combat trafficking. As the state’s sole regulator of the alcoholic beverage industry, TABC leads investigations of potential trafficking within agency-licensed businesses such as bars, convenience stores and nightclubs. Since 2013, TABC’s Special Investigations Unit has shut down more than 100 locations with suspected ties to organized crime, including human trafficking, money laundering, prostitution and narcotics trafficking. A number of those investigations took place during the most recent fiscal year, in which TABC agents identified or rescued nearly 100 potential trafficking victims while canceling the liquor permits of multiple businesses with ties to human trafficking. Putting an end to human trafficking within TABC-licensed businesses is a top priority for the agency, according to Executive Director Bentley Nettles. “The Texas Legislature recognized the incredibly important role TABC plays in fighting human trafficking and amended the Alcoholic Beverage Code to make this mission one of our top priorities,” Nettles said. “By working with our law enforcement partners at all levels of government, and with the support of the Legislature and everyday Texans, I’m confident we can expand on our success and make a difference in the lives of the victims of this horrible crime.” One of the ways Texans can assist in the fight is by spotting the signs of potential trafficking at a location and reporting it to TABC using the TABC:Mobile app or by calling 888-THE-TABC. “This mission simply can’t succeed without the help of concerned citizens,” Nettles said. “Information or tips provided by the public are often the first step in identifying potential trafficking, bringing the criminals to justice, and freeing the victims.” To learn more about TABC’s role in fighting human trafficking, visit bit.ly/tabc-ht. Media Contact: Chris Porter Public Information Officermedia@tabc.texas.gov

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Nov 13, 2020

TABC Empowers Texas Veterans To Start Businesses in the Alcoholic Beverage Industry

AUSTIN — As the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s Empowering Texas Veterans initiative begins its second year, the agency invites military veterans from across the state to learn more about available assistance for service members looking to start their own business in the alcoholic beverage industry. The initiative, launched in 2019, partners veterans who have established a business in the industry with protégés who want to begin a business on their own. The mentor will advise the protégé on issues and challenges associated with establishing a new company. “Our number-one goal with this program is to make sure there is no wrong door for veterans seeking information about breaking into the alcoholic beverage industry,” TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles said. “We are proud to work with our partner agencies to ensure eligible veterans are directed to the right people with the right answers as they take their first steps into the industry.” As the state’s regulator of the alcoholic beverage industry, TABC ensures mentors are able to assist potential business owners throughout the application process. Multiple Texas state agencies, including the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Veterans Commission and Texas Comptroller, assist both mentors and protégés by providing administrative support as well as information on issues such as veterans’ benefits, licensing fees and more. For more information about the program or to download an application, visit the TABC Veterans page. Media Contact: Chris Porter Public Information Officermedia@tabc.texas.gov

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Nov 3, 2020

Alcohol Permits for Eight Businesses Suspended Following Operation To Protect Texans

AUSTIN — A statewide sweep of more than 1,700 bars and restaurants by agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission resulted in 30-day suspensions for eight businesses found in violation of the state’s COVID-19 protocols. TABC agents continue to take part in Operation Safe Open, inspecting businesses to ensure they’re following state standards to slow the spread of the coronavirus. These requirements include indoor customer capacity limits of 50% for bars and 75% for restaurants, along with social distancing of at least 6 feet between groups of customers. In Texas counties with high hospitalization rates, the standards are even more stringent. Agents conducted 1,715 inspections over the last week, including 427 in the city of El Paso, where additional agents were deployed last week to assist with compliance operations. In addition to the eight suspensions, 43 other businesses received warnings. El Paso is in a Trauma Service Area where high hospitalization rates have been reported. Bars in the city are not allowed to open, and restaurants can only have 50% capacity. “These violations represent a very small number of the more than 20,000 licensed businesses inspected by TABC since the beginning of May,” TABC Chairman Kevin J. Lilly said. “A large majority of business owners are showing their commitment to keeping customers and employees safe, and we’re grateful for all of their hard work. TABC is committed to assisting the industry as we all work for a safe Texas.” “Protecting the health and safety of Texans during this pandemic is our top priority,” TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles said. “I’m incredibly proud of all the TABC employees working to ensure Texas bars and restaurants are able to operate safely. Our goal from the start has been to educate business owners about the requirements of the governor’s executive orders, and our Enforcement, Legal and Communications teams have done outstanding work to keep the industry and the public informed on how to stay safe while helping to reopen the Texas economy.” The businesses issued an emergency order for a 30-day permit suspension are: El Paso Rockstar Burger Bar – 217 N. Stanton St. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – 3737 N. Mesa St. Amarillo Bodega’s – 709 S. Polk St. Lubbock Kong’s – 1707 Texas Ave. Dallas CJ’s Billiard – 4848 Military Parkway IdleRye (doing business as Bitter End/Wok Hard Deep Ellum) – 2826 Elm St. El Globo Taqueria Restaurant – 212 S. Llewellyn Ave. College Station The Corner – 401 University Drive TABC is strictly monitoring bar and restaurant activity and will pursue emergency license suspensions if there are violations that threaten public health and safety. TABC has the authority to suspend any license that poses a continuing threat to the public welfare. The first infraction may result in up to a 30-day license suspension, and the second may result in up to a 60-day suspension. Find TABC’s resources for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic and view a map of counties where bars can reopen at tabc.texas.gov/coronavirus. Media Contact: Chris Porter Public Information Officermedia@tabc.texas.gov

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