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Comments by YACCS
Sunday, March 26, 2006

Stealth prohibition

Arrest him

Don't drink in a Dallas bar if you like not getting arrested. The Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission is now arresting drunk people in bars and bartenders as well. Let me put it this way, if that was last week, Jen would have been in jail and I probably would have as well. We won't even talk about my 20's, the last time my friend came up from Miami or a barbecue we had a couple of years back. And people are pissed.

Lawmakers to review bar busts

Public floods TABC with e-mails; legislators to review program

08:53 AM CST on Saturday, March 25, 2006

By PETE SLOVER / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN – Public intoxication busts of bar patrons by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission elicited a blast of indignant – even vicious – e-mails and calls from citizens Friday – to the agency, to journalists, and to elected officials who pledged to look into the arrests.

"I'm getting all those same e-mails, the Nazi, Taliban, Gestapo e-mails," said commission spokeswoman Carolyn Beck. "I don't really understand the hateful outrage. I don't understand, 'Die in a fire.' "

That e-mail traffic came after news reports about a stepped-up liquor-law enforcement program that has included arrests this month of patrons sitting drinking at establishments in Irving. Among those arrested was an Arkansas man who drank several beers at a hotel restaurant before he retired for the night to his room in the same hotel.

Ms. Beck said the arrests are part of a larger effort to rein in people who could be a danger to themselves or others – especially by driving drunk. In the six months ending in February, the agency issued 2,281 criminal citations, nearly double the amount for the same period the previous year.

Legislators who oversee the commission said they generally agreed with the agency's increased emphasis on public safety, including the attempt to nab potential drunken drivers early. That's why lawmakers gave the commission more than 100 new employees.

The commission was up for a periodic legislative review last year, meaning it would be eliminated if it wasn't explicitly approved by the Legislature. A complex bill to overhaul the agency and alcohol rules eventually failed, and the commission's life was extended for two years, with the understanding that its fate would be reconsidered in 2007.

But, the lawmakers said, accounts of the arrests suggest the enforcement program should be reviewed before next year, both to check for abuses and to measure its effectiveness. Even if the busts are legal, the question is whether they are the best use of the commission's resources, several said.

"Somebody hanging around the hotel, a little stumbling on the way to their room? I don't think that was what we were focusing on," said Rep. Peggy Hamric, R-Houston, who authored the proposed rewrite of the statute authorizing the agency.

Rep. Kino Flores, chairman of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures, said he plans to call a meeting next month to examine the alcohol commission's work.

"We're looking at it and we're going to be looking at it: Are we going too far, or do we need to go further?" the Mission Democrat said.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, was instrumental in getting the increased staffing, as a member of both the powerful Senate Finance Committee and the Criminal Justice Committee, which oversees the alcohol commission.

Although he agreed hearings are merited, he defended the principle of in-bar citations.

"Even though a public drunk is not planning on driving, that could change in an instant," he said. "There is certainly potential danger."

Mr. Whitmire said lawmakers should examine whether the agency, which is funded by fees it collects, is motivated to stricter enforcement by fiscal concerns.
Whitmire is an idiot. People have a right to drink and what's worse, is that people arrested were hotel guests. What were they going to do, drive up the elevator?

James Ragland:
Despite furor, agency intends to win bar fight

10:16 PM CST on Friday, March 24, 2006

Big Brother has gotten mean and sneaky.

In case you hadn't heard, you can't get wasted in a Texas drinking hole these days without fear of going to jail.

And your bartender might be hauled off with you.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is cracking down on public intoxication by going right where you'd expect to find somebody who may have had one too many – bars and nightclubs.

Apparently, the agency loves to shoot fish in a barrel.

Jokes aside, the campaign has caused a public uproar the likes of which I haven't seen around these parts in quite some time.

Within hours after The Dallas Morning News wrote about the crackdown, dozens of e-mails came pouring in yesterday against the TABC.

Folks are outraged, accusing the TABC of "Gestapo-like" practices, of trying to usher in a new era of alcohol prohibition, of being too lazy to go after drunks causing real problems.

Those were the nicer ones.

The TABC's district offices have been flooded with calls across the state.

Still, the agency isn't backing down. Capt. David Alexander, the man in charge of the North Texas region, said he isn't the least bit embarrassed by all the national attention the campaign is drawing.

"We don't feel embarrassed or ashamed, and we feel like we're making a difference by holding the bars accountable and reducing the potential for DWIs," Capt. Alexander said in a telephone interview, one of the countless media calls he has fielded.

Look, I'll give him this much. Capt. Alexander makes a compelling argument for cracking down on bars that defy state laws by selling drinks to patrons who seem like they've had too much to drink.

The way the TABC figures it, if it can cut down on the number of tipsy people leaving bars and restaurants, it can reduce the number of DWI-related accidents and fatalities.

That's an admirable goal. Plus, the truth is, public intoxication is illegal, too – and to the surprise of several people I talked to yesterday, bars are public places.

Still, you have to draw the line somewhere.

Problem is, the TABC has drawn its line too far by taking it upon itself to start arresting bar patrons who aren't causing any disturbance, especially if they're not planning to get behind the wheel.

That's apparently what happened to Burton Byers. He was drinking beer at the hotel he was staying at in Irving when police approached him. Undercover alcohol commission agents had ratted him out, identifying him as intoxicated either because of his behavior or because he'd had a few beers.

The Arkansas aircraft repairman was taken outside, handcuffed and sent to jail, where he posted $360 bond and was released. He later lost his job, he said, in part because of the arrest.
For some reason, Dallas residents don't like this.

Here's what other people are saying:
March 24, 2006 08:22 p.m.

Remind me never to patronize a Texas bar again. That means I won't be paying taxes on those drinks, and the bars will lose the income. If enough people like me do that, could be trouble for Texas. Don't you Texans have better places to put your law enforcement dollars than arresting people for drinking in bars?

March 24, 2006 07:33 p.m.

If bar patrons want to be considered a protected class then maybe they should start acting like it? I have been to bars, and it is a fact most people there have too much to drink. The law says you cannot be drunk in public. If they don't like living by the law then maybe we need to close bars down across the board?

March 24, 2006 06:15 p.m.

Well I may not be able to have a night out with some good friends and drinks anymore but at least I can still get state ID card that lets me shoot a man dead if he seems threatening to me.

March 24, 2006 06:08 p.m.

So is this the same freedom that our forefathers fought for? Or even the soldiers in Iraq? It seems like every year, we loose a little bit of our precious freedom. Don't be surprised when an uprising occurs in the USA. I have always said that police are those same people that were picked on in high school, and this is their revenge!

March 24, 2006 05:13 p.m.

This type of system is too subjective. It leaves room for discrimination, weighing in on the side of law enforcement. There are also privacy issues involving the act of being surveilled in a drinking establishment. However, the high rate of alcohol related fatalities in Texas is disturbing and should be addressed. Perhaps a vigorous awareness program is a better idea. The few statistics I've heard as a result of this controversy, speak loud and clear: we might not all drink in Texas bars but we must all occupy the same public roads and highways.

March 24, 2006 03:43 p.m.

Here is an easy answer. Write and e-mail your Cnongressman/woman...demand they find another less invasive way to trap public drunkeness and if as many people create outcry as those who write these comments. Than maybe this will reverse the course. Use popular soveriegnty to your advantage!!

March 24, 2006 03:40 p.m.

Completely outrageous and appalling. Some poor guy loses his job because he drank beer at a bar? Arrested while IN the bar? If alcohol is legal then it is legal. Period. What's next? Cops arresting people for having a 6 pack in their shopping cart at Kroger?

March 24, 2006 03:37 p.m.

For anyone commenting on this story and mentioning drunk driving, please re-read the story and pay attention! This is NOT about driving while drunk. There is a HUGE difference in the danger level between operating a two ton motor vehicle while drunk and just walking around a bar or other public area while drunk. It is not at all uncommon for people to drink in a bar and then walk or take a taxi home. Its worth our tax dollars to get the drunks off the road, but trying to arrest them in bars strikes me as a waste of time and money. Further more, very few people, including TABC officers, can really tell when another person is intoxicated unless that other person is so intoxicated that they are falling down drunk. If they are going to enforce this law, they better be prepared to offer proof of intoxication, and that means performing a breathalyzer test.

March 24, 2006 03:12 p.m.

Hassle in this case. this guy had a room at the hotel. I could understand if the commission officials wanted to stand outside the door and catch people trying to leave in a vehicle, that is totally understandable. But at this establishment if you are staying at the hotel you don't even have to go outside to get to your room. I know because I enjoy a few beers or six myself from time to time at the Circle Spur (Clarion) in Irving.

posted by Steve @ 12:02:00 AM

12:02:00 AM

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