AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Spring breakers beware. Agents from the department which regulates the sales of alcohol in Texas will be in bars, on beaches and in liquor stores this month as part of yearly public safety operations ahead of spring break.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s annual checks involve investigators visiting locations where alcohol is sold in Texas, sometimes undercover, and watching for violations, specifically selling to minors.
“Planned operations for 2019 include minor stings, in which TABC agents accompany a minor who attempts to buy alcohol, as well as increased operations which include monitoring for the sale of alcoholic beverages to intoxicated persons at popular Spring Break locations such as South Padre Island and Austin’s SXSW music festival,” an agency spokesperson said.
As public safety operations take place, the agency will send representatives to alcohol retailers to provide training and answer questions from people who run popular Spring Break retail locations. Their goal is to ensure best practices relating to prevention of alcohol sales to minors, including identifying fake IDs.
Austin bar owner Bob Woody, of the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance, is preparing for the crowds that come with SXSW.
“When start getting ready for festival season we know we’re going to be dealing with a lot of folks from out of town, and specifically ID’s from other states,” Woody said, explaining that he works with his security teams to ensure they’re in compliance.
Woody also works with bar owners across the state so the industry can succeed.
“We’ve got plenty of customers without bending and breaking the law,” Woody, who is also president of the East Sixth Street Community Association, said.
TABC’s undercover operations begin as the agency continues to train business owners on what investigators look for.
“The ultimate goal is not to penalize retailers who are doing their best to conduct business during a busy time,” TABC’s chief of law enforcement, Victor Kuykendoll said in a statement. “What we want to do first and foremost is to ensure they have the tools they need to successfully operate while keeping their customers and employees safe.”
“Spring Break is among the busiest times for alcohol retailers, particularly those in hotspots such as South Padre or Austin,” Kuykendoll said. “These operations allow us to focus on those areas most frequently visited by college-age students to remind retailers that any sales or service of alcohol to minors or intoxicated persons will not be tolerated.”
According to TABC, employees who conduct the sale of alcohol to people under 21 could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by fines up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail. Businesses that partake in the sale could face fines or license suspension.
“Any sale of alocohol to a minor is one too many,” agency spokesperson Chris Porter said.
The agency reported last year’s 1,632 minor stings during spring break operations yielded 138 violations, which is a compliance rate of approximately 91 percent. The statewide year-round average is 89 percent, according to the agency.
“Go on down the road, go break your laws somewhere else,” Woody said.