AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission announced Monday that agents have begun the agency’s annual undercover operations during back-to-school season.
TABC will use minors to try and buy alcohol from retailers, and if a sale happens, agents will go in and inform the manager of the violation.
Selling alcohol to minors is considered a Class A misdemeanor that’s punishable by up to a $4,000 fine and a year in jail.
“We aren’t trying to entrap retailers, we are trying to make sure they have the knowledge and skills they need to prevent those types of sales to minors,” said Chris Porter, the public information officer for the TABC.
The commission will use 18-year-old men and women to go undercover and attempt to buy booze. If they succeed, the business will get a violation. Repeat offenders could get shut down.
“We are going to liquor stores and convenient stores. We are going to restaurants and bars. Pretty much any location that retails alcohol to consumers,” Porter said.
This year, TABC doubled the time it spends on the operation, up from 3 weeks in years past. The TABC secured additional funding to extend the campaign until the end of September to make sure everyone is prepared for the student rush.
“TABC regularly conducts underage compliance operations in communities across Texas,” officials wrote in a news release. “During the past 12 months, agents conducted more than 11,200 operations statewide, finding a total of 1,234 violations for a total compliance rate of 90 percent.”
TABC is also cracking down on the use of fake IDs as part of this operation.
Impact on restaurants
Restaurant managers in Austin are aware of TABC’s operations and hope to continue serving alcohol responsibly.
Ryan Garrett, the general manager for Stubb’s BBQ, said his restaurant maintains a good relationship with officials at the TABC.
“Either you do things by the book or you don’t last long,” Garrett said. “If you are compliant, if you adhere to the laws, you are going to have a good relationship with the TABC.”
Garrett said the influx of UT students always brings a big crowd to the restaurant, especially during football season. Before each shift, he has a meeting with his staff to discuss the demographic they will likely be serving and how they can prepare.
“We are very diligent in making sure that minors are not in possession of alcohol. We have a zero-tolerance policy,” Garrett said. “We are excited about hosting throngs of football fans and patrons coming through.”
“A risk-based approach”
TABC representatives told us they operate using what they call “a risk-based approach.” They said businesses cited often face additional inspections for at least a year afterward.
Not every citation leads to a punishment or penalty, but there is a list of standard punishments.
Suspensions start as low as three days. Canceling a license happens on the third violation. TABC reserves that for offenders that can’t get back in compliance.
Who has been cited?
KXAN asked the TABC for records of serving and selling to minors over the last year in Austin. There were 67 citations year-to-date. None of them saw their alcohol license canceled.
Casino El Camino had three citations in this time frame. Mooseknuckle was written up twice. Records show they’re the only ones on Sixth Street with multiple citations. Michelada’s on Second, Snarf’s Sandwiches on Medical Arts Street, and The Pizza Press on 26th all had two citations as well.