TABC Reminds Texans of the Tragic Dangers of Not Drinking Responsibly
Agency asks businesses to commit to selling, serving responsibly during Alcohol Awareness Month
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.
Public Information Officer