An Ongoing Issue: Bartender in The Woodlands Arrested After Allegations of Over-Serving

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Chelsea Marie Willburn, 24, was arrested in The Woodlands for allegedly over-serving a patron at Baker Street Pub.
The Houston Chronicle reported this morning that a bartender at the popular Baker Street Pub location at The Woodlands Waterway has been arrested for allegedly over-serving a patron. Chelsea Marie Willburn, 24, was arrested early Sunday morning after a patron whom she'd served at Baker Street was found stumbling drunkenly while shouting racial slurs. The patron was also subsequently arrested.

The arrest comes from Montgomery County's undercover "Bars and Cars" unit, a joint task force operation made up of the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Conroe Police Department and the Montgomery County Sherriff's Office.

The operation is part of an ongoing effort to curb Montgomery County's rampant intoxicated-driving record, which posts a fatality rate nearly double that of neighboring Harris County. Wilburn is the first bartender to have been arrested as a result of this new task force.

Recently on Eating...Our Words, Katharine Shilcutt discussed the nearly unenforced policy of over-service in Houston-area restaurants. She pointed out that while TABC training does address over-service, most restaurants are ill-equipped and hardly eager to address the issue.

The Chronicle also reports on TABC's ongoing struggles to investigate allegations of over-service. The articles came in the wake of two separate fatal traffic incidents along the same stretch of I-45, each involving wrong-way drivers. In incidents that eerily mirror this most recent incident at an establishment in The Woodlands, both drivers were found to be heavily intoxicated and both were allegedly served in excess of 20 drinks each at Montgomery County bars.

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This is the third incident of over-serving at Baker Street Pub that we've reported on in the past year.
Commenters on Chron.com and threads like this one at Texags.com seemed focused on the futility of Willburn's arrest, calling them "witch hunts" -- despite the long-standing and clearly stated responsibility of bartenders and TABC-licensed businesses regarding over-service. As one commenter so deftly put it: a blood alcohol level of .13 (well over the legal limit to drive) is "Hoarsheet" and "nothing."

While jumping to the defense of those dangerously intoxicated and those responsible for over-service may seem fairly obtuse, Texas's lax and haphazard enforcement of TABC policy over the years can also be cited as a contributing reason why many Texans see being served until they are blind drunk as a God-given right.

This latest arrest is likely a warning shot across the bow for bartenders and owners regarding the policy of responsible service as TABC officials and law enforcement across the state struggle to keep pace with DUI incidents. Wilburn was charged with sale of alcohol to an intoxicated person when she was arrested by undercover Conroe police, and whether or not her case will be prosecuted, the arrest itself is -- in all likelihood -- seen by officials as a deterrent and warning to the service industry.

Interestingly enough, this is the third time Baker Street Pub has been mentioned by the Houston Press in relation to over-serving in the last year. The bar's Tomball location was investigated for over-serving by the TABC in 2011. And in a much more serious incident, the bar's River Oaks location was permanently closed after off-duty HPD officer Jose Coronado, who'd been drinking at Baker Street that evening, killed fellow patron Omar Ventura in a parking-lot incident in February 2011.

"Ventura's survivors have sued Coronado and also the bar, blaming Sherlock's Happy Hour policy for overserving the officer," wrote our own Rich Connelly after the closure was announced. "A former executive of the bar's owners also filed a complaint over the cheap-drinks policy."

And while it seems as though Baker Street locations are becoming well-known and well-reported for instances of over-service, they are hardly alone in their transgressions. Bartenders often report their hesitance and uncertainty about cutting patrons off. As Sean Beck, beverage director at Backstreet Cafe, Trevisio and Hugo's, told us earlier this year: "I know I've lost customers over it because I cut someone off...hopefully they're not creating a scene with your guests in the meantime."

If a 15-year veteran bartender and service director can acknowledge the difficulties in refusing service to intoxicated patrons, how does a 22-year-old bartender trying to earn tips and keep regulars happy hope to fare? It's a complex issue rife with catch-22 issues that are not easily solved.



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Sherlock's Baker Street Pub

10001 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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59 comments
Anse
Anse

Visible intoxication is a standard that's not easy to specify. Apparently this patron was clearly wasted, so I suppose it's not a stretch to charge the bartender with over-service.

But there are thousands of Houstonians who visit their favorite watering holes on an average workday and drink just enough to put grins on their faces. Those people drive home, and I bet a lot of them would read above .08 on a breathalyzer if they were pulled over.

I'll even go further: I'm willing to bet that every single Houstonian that drinks has probably gotten behind the wheel when they shouldn't have at some point in their lives. Maybe they weren't visibly drunk, but "buzzed driving is drunk driving", as they say. I don't see how you can hold bars and restaurants accountable for every customer who comes in and orders a few rounds.

Joseph Stark
Joseph Stark

Montgomery County has been struggling with a lot of DUI/DWI issues lately and have been vocally warning establishments of local alcohol laws and the TABC Code (which includes penalties such as fines, suspension of license to serve and even arresting staff) via the press for the last few months. Arresting the bartender was an appropriate response; however, more action should be required as far as prosecuting the management on duty and the corporate entity.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Stupid Drunkards are as Stupid Drunkards do.

Laurie Woolery Sheddan
Laurie Woolery Sheddan

so...all of you that agree that this bartender should be ARRESTED, BOOKED,JAILED AND TRIED FOR A CRIME will understand the next time you go out for a drink when the bartender cuts you off after 2 glasses of wine in an hour???? that would be the ONLY way they could be completely innocent of over serving you. Noone is advocating over serving drunk people. I have been a bartender for years and contrary to popular belief dealing with drunks is not only really trying it is by no means a money making proposition. DRUNKS ARE ANNOYING AND HORRIBLE TIPPERS!!! Take some personal responsibility people. EVERY bartender has legally over served a customer. EVERY bar patron has over consumed in a bar. Arresting bartenders does NOTHING to solve the problem. NOTHING.

Heather Atherton
Heather Atherton

If you can't do your job and follow the laws as a bartender/server, get out of the industry. These are some of the softest bartenders I've encountered and the drunk driving problem is worse than anywhere else I've lived.

kylejack
kylejack

@loon @CynicalHouston Glad they chose to start with a big chain. Sends a bigger message.

CynicalHouston
CynicalHouston

@loon Completely agreed. This is still, I feel, a required warning to get fucktard bartenders to at least give a remote amount of fucks.

John S. Whitford
John S. Whitford

If the manager wasn't arrested too then this won't have any impact on the problem, just on one minimum wage worker.

David Rozycki
David Rozycki

If the person is not driving why would it matter? Maybe the drunk person was going to get a cab or ride home with a friend.

Elizabeth Anne Milner
Elizabeth Anne Milner

The problem inherent in trying to hold a young, and likely inexperienced, bartender accountable in this type of situation is that there is a firmly entrenched entitlement mentality in consumers. It's especially prevalent in an area like The Woodlands, where the residents feel they should be given the moon when they're SOBER. It's especially difficult when you're dealing with an unruly and rude patron that could potentially hurt business with other customers.

andyphifer
andyphifer

I think just as important as having the bar step things up is having friends and designated drivers. A bartender can only do so much. You never know if the person you're serving has a very high tolerance (like me) or, like this guy I met, passed out facedown in the bar in a puddle of his own vomit after three Coors Lites. It was his first time drinking at age 23 and it absolutely floored him. No way a bartender could've predicted that, right? Good thing he had friends to scoop him up and get him home.

RocktheBurch
RocktheBurch

@EatingOurWords I had a feeling that article would bring out the best commentators in Houston.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

Anyone have information on whether this is a Texas statute, or something the TABC developed in their code? Can't seem to find any information on that. What's the max penalty for overserving someone? Thanks.

arrothiel
arrothiel

Dumb bimbo was probably trying to get a bigger tip. More drinks bought = bigger sale which = bigger tip, especially if the person in question is wasted. She was being extremely negligent and could have gotten people killed due to her greed and irresponsible behavior. She got exactly what she deserved. In fact, I hope she serves some serious time.

Gary R Wise
Gary R Wise

It's very difficult to cut someone off. Once confronted, they'll generally catch their snap and fake it for another drink or two. 'Management' is generally weak, more likely to be playing on Facebook in the office than out on the floor and *no-one* wants to play Police for $10 an hour. Bartenders have bills to pay, and what do you expect of such poorly supervised employees? Sue the Management, and things would change faster.

Dylan Osborne
Dylan Osborne

I used to bartend, and there was always an issue of when to cut someone off. I never felt like any of my managers fully appreciated the liability, nor would they ever take a clear stand on when to actually tell someone 'thats enough.' We knew the law, but never enforced it unless we just had to. The bartender doesn't want to lose a tip off of a high bill and the manager wants the bar sells.

Connie Marmolejo
Connie Marmolejo

Where does the wait staff fall into play? Bartender doesn't always know.

Missy Jane
Missy Jane

If not the bartender then maybe the bar manager. I think it is the responsibility of both or either to pay attention to how the patrons in their establishment are acting. If they seem very drunk, they should be cut off and put in a cab home. Sad that some adults aren't mature enough to cut themselves off, but that's the world we live in.

Kindergott
Kindergott

Certainly bartenders and waitstaff should be liable, just as you would be if you served your guest to the extent that he was falling down drunk and then handed him the keys for a midnight drive home. I agree there are difficulties enforcing it, you know, shades of gray where someone might or might not be impaired; but other times it's surely clear-cut, and that's when you litigate. Agree that public transportation is a solution, but so is personal and corporate responsibility.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

I'd bail her out, she can over serve me anytime. In all seriousness though, this does happen far too often and living down the street from Cecils and PJ's I see it far more than I'd care to.

jacob.pahcheka
jacob.pahcheka

Do waiters and cooks get arrested because someone has a heart attack after over eating a steak & shrimp meal? Or should we remove the state power to issue permits because people abuse the right to drink.

csfrankel
csfrankel

@EatingOurWords Damn, that's ridiculous :/

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

It is a money-grab by the Government.  Pure and simple.  Think we see this type of problems in cities with any type of viable public transport?  Houston cares so much about this that they shut down all transit at midnight.

 Use the proceeds to find actual alternatives to driving or admit you're just finding other ways to gather money.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Anse  "Visible intoxication is a standard that's not easy to specify."

Yet every high school or college age boy can instantly spot the intoxicated girls at the party.

Go figure.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Your rant means nothing to folks who've had the "experience" of IDing a dead family member. BTW, "personal responsibility" and substance abuse are NOT besties.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Establishes a patern--when there's a critical injury/fatality, the bar will be subject to a lawsuit.

MadMac
MadMac topcommenter

Or about to find a cure for crab lice. We arrest drunks in public fas much for their protection as for everyone else'.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

Nevermind, found it. TABC code 101.63. Up to a year in jail, fine of $100 - $500.

§ 101.63. SALE TO CERTAIN PERSONS.  (a) A person commits 
an offense if the person with criminal negligence sells an 
alcoholic beverage to an habitual drunkard or an intoxicated or 
insane person.
	(b)  Except as provided in Subsection (c) of this section, a 
violation of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of 
not less than $100 nor more than $500, by confinement in jail for 
not more than one year, or by both.
	(c)  If a person has been previously convicted of a violation 
of this section or of Section 106.03 of this code, a violation is a 
misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $500 nor more than 
$1,000, by confinement in jail for not more than one year, or by 
both.

http://law.onecle.com/texas/alcoholic/101.63.00.html

Florida63
Florida63

@jacob.pahcheka Eating a steak and shrimp meal generally does not impair one's judgment to the point of driving the wrong way down the interstate. I've never read a headline such as "Very full driver hits small child after all you can eat bender."  

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

@jacob.pahcheka If you're serving drinks to a clearly intoxicated person, you've just assumed a pretty hefty amount of responsibility for that person's state in my opinion. Not to mention the pure fact that it's against the law. Sure, it's a law that goes mostly unenforced, but it's still the law. Overserving someone is reckless endangerment, pure and simple.

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@FattyFatBastard Houston and Montgomery county are two vastly different places for the record.  Transit in houston has no affect on Montgomery bars.  

I'm all for pointing out CoH (and other jurisdictions) ridiculous efforts to increase revenue via cops but your argument is a mixed metaphor at best.

Additionally, in a county of less than 500,000 where 2  separate wrecks involving TWENTY drinks being served to a single person happen in A SINGLE WEEKEND, over-service is a problem.  Pure and Simple.  Is this the solution?  No idea. but to write it off as a money grab alone is not only ill informed and illogical, its dangerous. At least be fair and call it an arrest that is marred by ongoing typical revenue by cop issues and distrust for police and government procedure.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Kylejack  So liquor stores are banned from selling to drunkards and alcoholics, whether they are drunk at the time or not. 

And do "insane" people carry signs or other ID indicating their insanity to public observers?

PS -- define -- "criminal negligence"

jacob.pahcheka
jacob.pahcheka

@Kylejack it doesn't define habitual drunkard is that a regular customer, intoxicated person or insane? Do these people carry cards identifying themselves.

jacob.pahcheka
jacob.pahcheka

@Florida63 @jacob.pahcheka if they are having a heart attack or diabetic it does.

jacob.pahcheka
jacob.pahcheka

@kshilcutt @jacob.pahcheka over serving a far person should be just as illegal in food service. The server is still contributing to the harm of the individual. A bartender that under serves is doing a very bad job and should be fired. If I pay to get drunk I not only am consented to get drunk, I want my money back if the bartender fails to accomplish the job I paid for. We don't arrest cops because they don't stop bank robbers? Under serving me and go out of business.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@jajustice As someone who works in The Woodlands and lives inside the loop, I can agree and disagree with your statement.  The part I disagree with is that patrons are served differently in either county; they're not.  Are you saying that Montgomery has far fewer police to watchdog the roads?  Maybe.  It's a much more sparsely populated area.  Rural areas tend to be that way.

As to the 20 drinks being served, over what time frame?  Might he/she have purchased drinks for other patrons?  I've had more than 20 drinks on my tab before.  And what about bottle service?  Should the hostess be responsible if one of the patrons is bogarting the bottle?

 I'm simply tired of folks trying to find someone else to blame, and then fining the establishment for it.  Until there is a rule dictating how many drinks one person can be served, this is as much of a witch hunt as the noise ordinance bullshit that came about earlier this year.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @Kylejack Clearly the "drunkard" and "insane" parts aren't being enforced, so why worry about them? If you want those extraneous parts removed from the code, contact your representatives. Meanwhile TABC will enforce the sensible part, intoxicated persons.

jacob.pahcheka
jacob.pahcheka

@Kylejack @jacob.pahcheka I will use racial profiling to distinguish between who is and who isn't intoxicated?

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

@jacob.pahcheka It doesn't need to. The statute applies to serving habitual drunkards, intoxicated, or insane. You can disregard that one label and it's illegal to serve someone who is intoxicated.

Kylejack
Kylejack topcommenter

Comment system fubars the link. law.onecle.com/texas/alcoholic/106.14.00.html

jacob.pahcheka
jacob.pahcheka

@Jefs_Old_Boss if I run over the jay walker it's helping society.

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

@jacob.pahcheka well you obviously did not wake up today looking for a grasp of the English language either...

Jefs_Old_Boss
Jefs_Old_Boss

@jacob.pahcheka Yeah you're a moron. Stay inside and drink yourself to death if you want. As soon as you step outside, and even worse behind the wheel, while drunk you're committing a crime, pure and simple. 

jacob.pahcheka
jacob.pahcheka

@texmex01 @jacob.pahcheka I didn't wake up today intending to showcase my devotion your pleasing? I woke up on vacation finally ready to get drunk as I can cause it's my right after protecting people at work.

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

@jacob.pahcheka you sir are an idiot, I would expand more on this, but the post above erases any doubt on the matter.....

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@JeandeFleur ANY solution or alternative is better than none.  In 30 years, Texas has presented zero alternative solutions.  Zero.  I have a huge issue with Texas taking all of the fines and doing nothing to try and alleviate the problem.  And no, higher fines and penalties are not a solution.

Anse
Anse

This is not just about public transit. When you risk having your car towed if you leave it overnight, you have an incentive to get behind the wheel. And you can say that people should plan ahead and take a cab to and from, but a lot of folks drop into the bar after work and stay perhaps a tad longer than they planned. But as for public transit, there are a lot of good reasons to have it. Drunks are just one.

JeandeFleur
JeandeFleur

@FattyFatBastard C'mon Fatty, any mid-size town is 'spread out to a point' where you're going to find drunk drivers after a visit to the tavern. Ditto with REALLY drunk drivers. And the latter IS actually a very small percentage of any populace. Does that mean every Mayberry should install public transportation to facilitate getting them home? Does it mean that holding bartenders accountable in that town is a naked revenue grab, 'pure and simple'? No. It's merely a sensible part of a solution. Btw, Having a subsidized taxi service is probably way more sensible than running empty buses overtime.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@Kindergott It means that Houston is spread out to a point where I have yet to find a person in this town that has never been behind the wheel intoxicated.  It isn't a "small" percentage of the population, which is why it has been a profit maker for the state for so long. If they actually gave a damn about saving lives, they would have put that money to some good use.  For one, how about having busses run til 3 a.m. on the weekends?  That would take very little cash out of the profit machine it has become.  They look for zero solutions; they just find new ways to make money out of it.  MADD started out with good intentions, but the entire thing has become a sham.  Guess what folks?  Prohibition didn't work out the first time.  Find better alternatives.

Kindergott
Kindergott

@FattyFatBastard "No new law on the books has made a substantial dent in DWI cases since the 80's". I don't know what that means, or if you know either. I guess it's a way of saying we can't legislate personal health, and there's little that can be done to treat a percentage of the population that is alcoholic, or chronically abuses alcohol. On the other hand, I wonder if the solution is more choices of transportation. Do you envision severely wasted folks taking a bus home, or boarding a train? It would be easier for a bar to show discretion, take the keys and call a taxi. Instead of building more public transport for a small portion of the populace.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

@jajustice I've been following this for quite some time, and my comparing arresting waitresses is quite comparable to fining businesses for loud noises.  Don't pull out the "it's killing people!" nonsense.  No new law on the books has made a substantial dent in DWI cases since the 80's:  you will always have that percentage that will drink regardless of consequence, similar to the death penalty doing nothing to curb certain killers.  What these fines COULD go toward would be alternate means of transport, which at least would provide the idiots with a viable alternative.  Until they do so, I will call them the hypocrite money grabbers that they are.

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

 @FattyFatBastard I was just pointing out that buses shutting down on Richmond at midnight doesn't have any affect on a guy sitting out at Molly's in The Woodlands.  Never has, never will.  It's certainly a problem for drinkers down here of course.

Comparing the noise ordinance to an issue that kills people is smart though.

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