AUSTIN (KXAN) — With Spring Break, South by Southwest and Saint Patrick’s Day underway today, agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will be trying to crack down on businesses that sell to minors.
The annual underage compliance operations during the month of March are part of an ongoing effort to empower businesses to prevent illegal alcohol sales, including sales to intoxicated persons and customers under the age of 21.
According to data from the Texas Department of Transportation, underage drivers accounted for 575 alcohol-related crashes in 2021, including 66 fatal crashes.
“The vast majority of underage alcohol-related accidents and fatalities can be prevented simply by cutting off the source of alcohol to the minors,” TABC Executive Director Thomas Graham said. “Our primary goal during this operation is to work with retailers to ensure they have the practices and policies in place to prevent illegal alcohol sales. In the relatively few cases where we observe a violation, we’ll hold those businesses accountable and get them back into compliance.”
Throughout the spring break operation, TABC agents will conduct undercover and open inspections to identify retailers selling alcohol to minors.
In Austin, they’ll keep a close eye on hot spots such as Sixth Street, Rainey Street and the Eastside.
With the post-pandemic travel boom on full display this week in Austin, a number of local bars and restaurants are expecting greater crowds than usual.
TABC Spokesman Chris Porter says that this presents problems.
“The huge crush of people that they’re expecting can be one of the biggest challenges,” he said.
“We certainly understand that when it gets busy, there are several people asking for drinks at the bar. Sometimes it can be difficult to check a person’s age when they’re conducting that sale.”
Businesses found in violation could face a fine or a temporary suspension of their liquor license, while employees who break the law could face a misdemeanor criminal charge.
TABC has been offering training and educational resources for retailers to help their employees prepare for the busy spring break season, including in-person sessions such as a seminar held with South Padre Island and Port Isabel merchants in February.
“We want alcohol retailers across the state to realize that this period before spring break is the best time to prepare your staff for the busy season ahead,” Graham said. “Train your staff to recognize the signs of a fake ID, as well as the best ways to decline a sale if you think it would break the law. Ultimately, alcohol retailers are the first line of defense when it comes to preventing injury or loss of life.”
The state agency reported last year’s 1,296 minor stings during spring break operations yielded 118 violations, which is a compliance rate of approximately 91%. The statewide year-round average is also 91%, according to the agency.