The TABC and You
Last week, undercover agents for the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission went into 36 bars in a Dallas suburb and arrested 30 people for public intoxication. Let me repeat: 30 people were arrested for allegedly being drunk … in bars … places that serve alcohol … a legal narcotic that people pay money to swill. Thirty people – that’s the number “3″ followed by “0″ – were arrested.
All kidding aside, protecting folks like you and me, full-grown Texans who work hard and enjoy a good barside throwdown now and then, is the TABC’s purported goal. In a moment of extreme clarity and profundity, TABC spokesperson Carolyn Beck told Reuters, the news organization that broke the story: “There are a lot of dangerous and stupid things people do when they’re intoxicated, other than get behind the wheel of the car.” (Don’t even dignify her statement with a No fucking shit, Dick Tracy!) She goes on, arrogantly. “People walk out into traffic and get run over. People jump off balconies trying to reach a swimming pool and miss.”
Fine, but as the old saying goes: You can’t legislate common sense! Stupid people have been doing stupid things forever and undoubtedly will for the rest of time!
The TABC, apparently, has every right to slap a P.I. on anyone, at any time. That’s like giving a fat guy the key to McDonald’s – it just doesn’t make any friggin sense.
Here’s my take: The TABC is staffed by working-class folks like you and me, and they’d either be insane or suicidal to go after friends and neighbors. As a long-time Texan and famous globe-trotting tippler, I think the TABC is up to something, and I bet you 10 cases of beer it has little or nothing to do with ruining happy hour for worker bees like us. The commission, I’m guessing, has its sights on bigger, juicier targets, even bigger than bartenders who (gasp!) serve strong drinks.
See, for years, small business owners, city council members, and other concerned citizens – all industrious, law-abiding folks who, like you and me, legally go to bars on occasion and legally drink and legally have a good time – have been complaining about, for lack of a better term, blight bars: you know, those dilapidated, windowless shacks you see in certain parts of the South Side and along Jacksboro Highway, disgusting shit-holes you would enter only in the likely event that you got carjacked while passing by and were being held at gunpoint. Crappy, seedy, scary blight bars – the cancer cells of Clubland.
The TABC has been slow to root out no-tell joints for two primary reasons: 1.) Up until recently, when about 60 new agents were hired statewide, the commission was severely understaffed, and 2.) 99.999 percent of blight bars are located in poor, minority neighborhoods. Don’t get me wrong: I doubt the TABC is afraid of appearing racially insensitive or whatever – nothing would please the industrious, law-abiding folks who live in the affected neighborhoods more than a lethal crackdown on blight bars. No, the TABC is being smart. Blight bars essentially function as safe havens for drug dealers, prostitutes, illegal gamers, fugitives, and other ne’er-do-wells. If the TABC is going to eradicate these places, the commission better have its shit together. Agents just can’t barge randomly into a no-tell dive any ol’ day of the week and hope to make a big bust, something on which they can hang a “closed … for good” sign. They have to take their time, investigate, be smart.
They also have to put the fear of God in their enemy, which is exactly what they’re doing now. The trick is as old as modern warfare itself: Before engaging the enemy directly, rattle his cage a little, send his foot soldiers scurrying for their holes out of cowardice, and then wait for him to screw up, which he – nervous and now out of his element – inevitably will. Then move in swiftly and easily for the kill. Being able to arrest anyone on the most insignificant, shakiest of grounds is the commission’s trump card. Played every day, it will lose efficacy. You play it when the time is right.
By letting the story of the Dallas sweep and tough-talk of future crackdowns do a lot of the fighting in the trenches, the TABC brilliantly conserves time, energy, and, most importantly, taxpayer dollars. I don’t know about you, but the fewer drug dealers, prostitutes, illegal gamers, fugitives, and other drains on society we have on the streets – and on the barstool next to me – the better off we’re all gonna be.
Yes, I do concede that happy hour isn’t gonna be as happy over the next couple of months. (Maybe we should call it “Dour Hour.”) But I wouldn’t worry. Just be sure that if you’re at a bar and are feeling tipsy, you’re not snorting coke off the collective cleavage of several “escorts” while shooting craps with a roomful of pistol-packin’ prison escapees.
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