- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 15, 2006

DALLAS — The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has temporarily suspended a program used to haul suspected drunks from bars to jail cells after an outcry from politicians, business owners and patrons.

The commission said its crackdown on public intoxication, known as “Operation Last Call,” had been halted — at least until after a public meeting tomorrow with state legislators in Austin.

“We understand that everything has room for improvement, this included,” TABC spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said.

The complaints began last month when the TABC began entering restaurants and bars and arresting customers whom agents deemed to be intoxicated. The commission said its goal was to cut down on the burgeoning death rate from drunken drivers.

Several politicians said they received complaints, not only from those who had been arrested, but from bar owners and tourism promoters who claimed the “raids” had begun to hurt their businesses.

The largest “Operation Last Call” raid was in suburban Irving in late March, when about 30 people were arrested in 36 bars.

Mrs. Beck said most of those arrested in the sting operations were “dangerously drunk” and might have tried to drive had they not be apprehended.

“Going to a bar is not an opportunity to go get drunk,” TABC Capt. David Alexander said.

At least two of those arrested in Irving complained that they were not intoxicated and that they had no access to vehicles. Both were guests at a motel, several yards from the bar.

Despite the complaints, Mrs. Beck maintained that the commission had opted to put the program on hold “just to give us time to sift through all the information we’ve received and put together this information and determine the best way to proceed.”

TABC officials informed state Rep. Kino Flores, chairman of the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, last week that the agency would be reviewing its procedures and would appear before Mr. Flores’ committee this week.

The Austin hearing also will include members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, Mrs. Beck said.

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