ABLE Commission Holding Bars Accountable
They are places of celebration, where memories are made, friendships formed and deepened. But for all the laughs and good times, bars also bear a heavy responsibility."It's scary, it's nerve wracking," said Josh Royal of R Bar."Cause there are so many things that can happen," said Sonny Barker of Slo Ride Bar."Drunk, wanting more to drink," said Travis Bruton of BruHouse.
BruHouse, Slo-Ride and R Bar are all establishments that stress to staff the importance of making sure customers don't have too much alcohol, because if the line is crossed and something happens, some of the blame comes back to them."Where's the liability? You know where, it's everybody pointing fingers at somebody else," said Royal."Bartenders are there to serve drinks, not drunks," said Erik Smoot, an agent with the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission, which is ramping up efforts to crack down on bars that over-serve."More and more of thee cases are coming out, and we're holding more and more people responsible," he said.Just last month on the BA expressway, a man was traveling highway speeds on the wrong side of the road. An officer tried to flag him down, but minutes later there was a head on collision with a man in his 60's headed to work."That individual was killed instantaneously," said Sgt. Darren Bristow.
The alleged drunk driver lived. ABLE is tracing where he drank earlier that night."And when we're able to determine that for sure then charges will be filed," said Smoot.
Then, there's the incident from last September at Brook Alley, where helicopter pilot Sammy Ford had more than a few drinks."Person was served well past intoxication, he was almost 4 times the legal limit," said Smoot.
When he left, as seen on the surveillance video, he barely made it a few feet before falling into Peoria."Can't stand back up so he begins crawling across the street, and at that point, he's hit by a first car, and then the second car. Dead when officers arrive," said Smoot.
ABLE agents checked receipts and determined he had consumed 9 drinks at the establishment."And charged two bartenders with serving alcohol to an intoxicated person, which in Oklahoma is a felony," he said.
The bartenders plead no contest.
By far, the most infamous case took place in 2007."Well, the phone rang about midnight or a little bit after, and it was my daughter and she says, Mom, uh, Shannon's dead," said Ann Matthews. Her grandson, Shannon Lacey, was one of five people mowed down in the middle of the road by Kimberly Graham. She had been drinking at various bars that evening."And I feel like if those bartenders, and they're educated, and they know enough, they know when someone's had enough to drink. And they should have refused right then. But they see those almighty dollars," said Matthews.
Graham was sentenced to 107 years. There's a plaque at the site of the incident, while Ann has photos of her grandson frozen in time with his two boys."Was he a good Dad? Oh, really a good Dad," she said."It's sad when a thing like that happens, and you cross your fingers and you pray that it doesn't happen to you," said Royal.
As a result, when and if the tipping point arrives...
"We won't serve them. I mean we won't serve them alcohol, I should say. Be glad to get them a cup of coffee, water," said Bruton."You're helping the customer, not hurting them, but sometimes they feel like you're hurting them when you have to tell them, 'Ok, I can't serve you anymore. They get upset, and it becomes difficult," said Royal.
For bar owners the big picture is simple. Better the brunt of an angry customer, than the burden of a grieving loved one."I don't think any of the families will ever get over it, because it's such a drastic, horrible way to die," said Matthews.