Should we charge bartenders with murder when drunk patrons kill others?


For the most part, I have some great memories of bartending. 

Shameless flirting.  A pocket full of cash at all times.  Laughter. Networking.

But there’s a darker side of it that very few people talk about – and that’s the risk that’s associated with the job.  The responsibility of making sure that everyone has fun, but everyone goes home safely.

So should a bartender face charges when that doesn’t happen?

In Texas, a bartender was charged on Tuesday of serving an intoxicated man who later went on to kill 8 people during a shooting rampage at a football watch party in 2017.

Her name is Lindsey Glass, and she’s 27-years-old.  Police arrested her and charged her with a misdemeanor.  She faces a fine up to $500, a year in jail, or both, after they say she violated a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code that restricts “sale to certain persons.”

“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,” according to the code.

There are obvious problems with the code.  First of all, some people don’t display signs that they are intoxicated. 

That’s particularly of issue when they come into a bar or a restaurant and had been drinking before. It’s one thing to have an expectation that a server or bartender will be able to track the number of drinks they are giving someone. 

It’s another to think they’ve got the mind-reading capability of knowing what they drank before coming in.  Outside of giving them a BAC test, the assumption is that the bartender or server will use good judgement.

I’ve seen a 4’10”, 90 lb. Albanian drinking four Goose martinis and not seem to be even remotely buzzed (I’m not suggesting she wasn’t legally intoxicated).  Then I’ve seen a 6’2”, 275 lb. linebacker have two Bud drafts and be stumbling like he was just tackled.

Then there’s the second obvious problem with the code.  “Insane person”?  Are we supposed to now pull medical records on someone? 

I think you’re “insane” to vote for Bernie Sanders.  Does that mean I broke the law by serving that Sanders voter a green-tea martini?

In this particular arrest, police say Glass worked at the Local Public House in Plano, where Spencer Hight showed up on the night of Sept. 10, 2017, and was served despite displaying signs of intoxication at the bar.

Lindsey Glass
Lindsey Glass

According to a report by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Glass had texted another bartender saying that Hight was in the bar earlier that day and “had 2 gins and he only had 2 beers and a shot when he came back [sic] I think he was at another bar while he was gone.”

She sent another text that read:

“Spencer has a big knife on the bar and is spinning it and just asked for his tab and said I have to go do some dirty work … Psychoooooooo,” according to the report.

Ok, yeah.  That.  That’s a freaking problem.

That falls under the whole “if you see something, say something” category.

Police say Hight left the bar and barged into the home of his ex-wife, Meredith Hight, killing 8 people before police shot and killed him.

According to the Collin County medical examiner’s office, he had a blood alcohol level of .33 during the shooting.

For context, that’s about four times the state’s legal limit for driving.

But hang on a second. On the surface, it sounds like criminal negligence on Glass’ part. 

But police say she actually followed Hight to the home and called 911 before leaving, but it wasn’t soon enough.

Does that give her a pass?  Or does it actually provide further proof that she was negligent, because she clearly recognized there was a problem but did nothing to stop it?

The victims were Anthony Michael Cross, 33, Olivia Nicole Deffner, 24, James Richard Dunlop, 29, Darryl William Hawkins, 22, Rion Christopher Morgan, 31, Myah Sade Bass, 28, and Caleb Seth Edwards, 25.

The only survivor was Carly Shockey, who was shot in the jaw.

Since the shooting, the victims’ families have filed a lawsuit against the bar for negligence for overserving Hight.

According to the suit, Hight was stumbling around the bar and “ran into a large picnic table on the patio hard enough to move the table. He staggered back inside and again took a seat at the bar.”

For their part, the defendants have denied the allegations.

Last year, Local Public House settled with the TABC and agreed to give up its liquor license after the shooting.  They didn’t have to admit to wrongdoing under the settlement.

“This case shows the critically important role that TABC-licensed businesses play in upholding public safety,” said Bentley Nettles, the commission’s executive director. “Anyone, including customers, business owners, or employees, should contact their local police any time they suspect a threat to the public. In some cases, shootings like this can be stopped before a life is lost.”

 How exactly do you determine who is to blame and what the punishment should be?

There’s something called “dram shop role”, which is a statute in 38 states.  That helps guide the process.  It makes a business which sells alcoholic drinks or a host who serves liquor to a drinker who is obviously intoxicated or close to it, strictly liable to anyone injured by the drunken patron or guest.

Then there’s the flip side. Look at California, for example, which passed legislation specifically banning such strict liability.

The problem is that it’s often hard to prove that the liquor bought or served was the specific cause of an accident (such as an automobile crash while driving home), since there is always an intervening cause, namely, the drunk.

One thing is for certain. Whether you’re the bartender or the drunk, there are significant risks that come along with being belly up at the bar. 

And when you get behind the wheel, countless lives can change forever.

Apparently it just depends on where you live when it’s decided who, exactly, is to blame.




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