Those from all over Collin County flock to the Shops at Legacy in Plano on the weekends, looking for good drinks and a good time. But unbeknownst to those looking to let loose on Saturday, April 18, Plano Police Department officers were visiting area bars undercover as part of a sting operation. 

The sting operation, however, wasn’t done to interfere with those having a bit too much to drink — it was focused on making sure bartenders and servers weren’t overserving alcoholic drinks to intoxicated people after two citizens were recently killed by drunk drivers.

Statewide, Texas saw 942 deaths from crashes involving alcohol in 2020, according to Accident News Daily. And even amid a global pandemic, alcohol-related crashes resulting in fatalities were up 6.3% from 2019.

And what the undercover cops found confirmed that some servers were violating the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code by serving alcohol to already intoxicated patrons, which is a Class A misdemeanor, according to a June 8 Facebook post from the Plano Police Department. The operation resulted in the arrests of five servers. 

The five servers arrested came from Peppersmash, Scruffy Duffies and Ringo’s Pub, according to the post. The department obtained warrants for each person they found in violation of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. The last warrants were served on June 5.

“We will continue to conduct strict enforcement on not only impaired drivers, but also those who overserve intoxicated subjects, all in an effort to keep Plano a safe community,” the department wrote in the Facebook post.

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Not a new problem

And this problem isn’t exactly a new one. Tilley said the police department “regularly” checks on bars and meets with servers to make sure they aren’t overserving. 

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code 101.63 states that it’s an offense to sell “an alcoholic beverage to an habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or insane person.” It’s also a violation of the code to deliver for “commercial purposes” an alcoholic drink to an intoxicated person.

Violating the code can result in a fine between $100 and $500 and possibly a year-long jail sentence. If previously convicted of violating the code, the fine increases to $500 but no more than $1,000 and possibly a trip to jail for no more than a year. 

“We have conducted this operation before and periodically do it throughout the year,” Tilley said.

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Public response

Of course, public response to the sting operation has been mixed, with some thanking the police department and others saying the blame should be on the overly intoxicated patrons — not those who serve them. 

“Nice to see where my tax dollars are going,” one person posted on the department’s Facebook post about the sting operation. “Paying for cops to hang out in bars and messing with people making less than minimum wage for doing their jobs. What a bunch of heroes.”

However, another comment on the post was from a bar manager who wrote: “Those servers knew.” 

“They take class after class on overserving, the liabilities, and the consequences,” she added. “They know that the second they start serving someone, the restaurant is legally liable for that person’s safety.”

And some felt that the restaurant or bar owners should be held liable rather than the individual servers. However, Tilley said the Plano Police Department doesn’t conduct the administrative inquiries. Instead, they report the arrests to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, who then decides whether the bar or restaurant as a whole should be held accountable. 

For now, Tilley said the five servers will stand trial for violating the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code 101.63. Whether their licenses to serve alcohol will be revoked will be determined by the courts. 

“We are committed to making our streets safer for citizens to travel and have a zero tolerance approach when it comes to impaired driving,” the police department wrote in the Facebook post.

Tips to remember

Since these sting operations will continue, if you’re a server or bartender, here are some tips from America’s Alcohol Certified Education Association to help prevent you from overserving to already intoxicated patrons:

  1. Pay attention to how your customers look. Ask yourself questions like: Are their eyes red and watery? Do they look overly tired? Do they smell strongly of alcohol? Do they look disheveled?
  1. Observe what your patrons are doing. Ask yourself questions like: Are they slurring their words when speaking? Are they being overly loud? Are they going to the bathroom frequently? Are they having trouble walking? Are they struggling to keep their balance?
  1. Observe how your customers are reacting to stimuli. Ask yourself questions like: Does it take them a long time to answer your questions? Does answering your questions require great effort on their part? Are they laughing at what you or others say in an overly animated way?
  1. Pay attention to how much alcohol is being bought and consumed by your customers. However, since many people drink before going out, your best bet is to rely on behavioral observation. But keeping tabs on how much your customers are buying and drinking can give you a basic sense of their intoxication level. 

Bailey Lewis

Bailey Lewis recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma and served as The OU Daily's news editor and enterprise editor. Previously, she was a summer 2020 news intern at the Malheur Enterprise,...