Dram Shop Laws: What is Required of Bars in Texas?

by | Dec 1, 2023 | Car Accident, Dram Shop Law, Personal Injury, Vehicle Accident, Wrongful Death

Dram shop laws refer to laws that hold establishments accountable for serving alcohol to individuals who subsequently cause harm to themselves or others. In Texas, these laws govern the responsibilities of bars and other alcohol-serving establishments concerning the service of alcoholic beverages.

Dram shop laws in Texas hold bars and other alcohol-serving establishments liable for the actions of individuals to whom they serve alcohol under specific circumstances. These laws are designed to ensure responsible alcohol service, minimize alcohol-related accidents, and provide recourse for victims affected by the actions of intoxicated individuals.

In the article below, the personal injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia provide information about Texas dram shop laws, what is required of bars and other establishments, and how these laws can affect victims of alcohol-related accidents.

What is Required of Bars in Texas?

In order to serve alcohol in Texas, a bar must adhere to certain laws and guidelines. The law requires bars to obtain a permit from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) in order to sell alcohol. Bars must also follow a number of regulations related to the sale and consumption of alcohol.

Texas Regulations Include:

  • Age Restrictions: Bars must not sell or serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. This 21 sign must be prominently displayed.
  • Proof of Age: Bars must require all patrons who appear to be under the age of 30 to show proof of age before serving them alcohol. Acceptable forms of identification include a driver’s license, passport, or military ID.
  • Serving Intoxicated Persons: Bars must not serve alcohol to anyone who is obviously intoxicated. This includes patrons who are slurring their speech, staggering, or exhibiting other signs of intoxication.
  • Two-Drink Rule: Bars must not serve more than two alcoholic beverages to any one person at a time. This rule does not apply to mixed drinks, which may contain multiple servings of alcohol.
  • Food Service: Bars that primarily sell alcohol must serve food. This means that they must have a kitchen and offer a menu of food items. The TABC does not have specific requirements for the type of food that must be served, but it must be substantial enough to be considered a meal.
  • Hours of Operation: Bars can sell alcohol from 7:00 AM to 2:00 AM. However, some cities and counties have their own restrictions on the hours of operation for bars.
  • Responsible Alcohol Service Training: All bartenders and servers who serve alcohol must complete a responsible alcohol service training program. This program must teach them how to identify and serve intoxicated patrons, as well as how to prevent underage drinking.

These are just some of the Texas laws that require bars to follow. For a complete list of regulations, please visit the TABC website.

Understanding Texas Dram Shop Laws

Texas dram shop laws impose significant responsibilities on bars and other alcohol-serving establishments to ensure the responsible service of alcohol. When these laws are violated and someone is harmed, victims can pursue claims under Texas dram shop laws. An overview of these laws is as follows:

Liability Criteria

In Texas, bars and establishments serving alcohol can be held liable under dram shop laws if certain criteria are met. These include:

  • Serving Alcohol to Intoxicated Persons: Establishments can be held liable if they serve alcohol to individuals who are visibly intoxicated to the extent that they pose a clear danger to themselves or others.
  • Foreseeable Harm: The establishment’s actions must have been a foreseeable cause of the subsequent harm caused by the intoxicated individual. This harm can include injuries, property damage, or other losses resulting from the individual’s intoxication.

Types of Cases Covered

Dram shop laws in Texas cover various scenarios where an alcohol-serving establishment may be held accountable. These include:

  • Injuries Caused by Intoxicated Patrons: If a bar over serves an individual who later causes an accident, leading to injuries or fatalities, the establishment might be held liable.
  • Serving Minors: Serving alcohol to a minor (under 21 years old) who then causes harm or accidents due to intoxication can also lead to liability for the establishment.

Limitations of Liability

It is important to note that Texas dram shop laws do have limitations and defenses for the accused establishments:

  • Contributory Negligence: If the injured party also contributed to their own harm by, for instance, willingly consuming excessive alcohol, the establishment’s liability might be reduced or dismissed.
  • Criminal Act Defense: If the individual who caused harm was involved in criminal conduct unrelated to their intoxication, the establishment might not be held liable.

Importance of Compliance with Texas Dram Shop Laws

For bars and establishments serving alcohol in Texas, compliance with dram shop laws is crucial. Training staff to recognize signs of intoxication, implementing responsible service policies, and refusing service to visibly intoxicated individuals are essential steps in minimizing liability risks.

Additionally, maintaining records of training sessions, documenting instances where service was denied due to intoxication, and having clear protocols in place can serve as evidence to demonstrate compliance with the law if a situation arises.

What are the Penalties for Violating Texas Dram Shop Laws?

In Texas, violating dram shop laws can result in various penalties and consequences for establishments that serve alcohol irresponsibly or unlawfully. The penalties for violating these laws can be significant and may include both civil and administrative consequences. Here are some of the potential penalties for violating Texas dram shop laws:

Civil Liability

One of the primary consequences of violating dram shop laws in Texas is civil liability. If an alcohol-serving establishment is found liable for over serving alcohol to an intoxicated individual who later causes harm, such as injuries or property damage, the establishment may face civil lawsuits. These lawsuits can lead to significant financial damages, where the establishment might be required to compensate the injured parties for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related damages.

Fines and Monetary Penalties

Establishments found in violation of dram shop laws may face fines imposed by the TABC or other regulatory bodies. These fines can vary in amount depending on the severity of the violation and may escalate for repeated offenses.

License Suspension or Revocation

Violating dram shop laws can result in the suspension or revocation of the establishment’s liquor license. The TABC has the authority to take administrative action against establishments that fail to comply with alcohol service regulations. Suspension or revocation of the license can severely impact the business’s ability to operate legally and can lead to financial losses due to the inability to sell alcoholic beverages.

Criminal Charges

In certain extreme cases, criminal charges may be filed against an establishment or its employees for serious violations of dram shop laws. This could result in criminal penalties, including fines and potentially imprisonment, particularly if the violation led to severe harm or fatalities.

Increased Insurance Premiums or Coverage Denial

Insurance companies that provide coverage to alcohol-serving establishments might increase premiums or even deny coverage if the establishment is found to have violated dram shop laws. This can significantly impact the business’s finances and ability to operate.

Reputational Damage

Beyond legal and financial consequences, a violation of dram shop laws can lead to severe reputational damage for the establishment. Negative publicity and public perception may affect the business’s standing in the community and result in a loss of customers and revenue.

Given these potential penalties, it is crucial for bars, restaurants, and other establishments serving alcohol in Texas to understand and adhere to dram shop laws. Implementing responsible alcohol service practices, training staff to recognize signs of intoxication, and following strict protocols for checking identification and refusing service to visibly intoxicated individuals are essential steps in compliance and risk mitigation.

Have Questions about Texas Dram Shop Laws?

Adhering to Texas dram shop laws can certainly aid in the prevention of alcohol-related incidents. Unfortunately, bars and other establishments are only part of the larger picture of alcohol-related accidents, injuries, and deaths in Texas.

If you have questions about Texas dram shop laws, are injured due to an intoxicated person, or have lost a loved one in a tragic accident, Kherkher Garcia can help. Our team of personal injury lawyers have decades of experience in all manner of personal injury and wrongful death claims. We can help you make sense of your situation, understand and protect your rights, and pursue justice and compensation.

Get answers to your questions by calling us at 713-333-1030 for a free consultation. You can also reach out to us via our online contact form.

Image by Freepik

Schedule a free Consultation

Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

Learn moreRead more articles