Bartender charged with overserving drunk customer

November 28, 2012 4:03:27 PM PST
A bartender is facing charges in the first of what could be many arrests by a new task force. The group's mission is to put the brakes on what is a growing problem in Montgomery County -- people driving drunk.

This new effort isn't just targeting suspected drunk drivers on the road. It involves undercover officers going into bars. In fact, the first arrest was a bartender in The Woodlands.

The Montgomery County "Bars and Cars" task force came together after a string of DWI deaths in the area. They're cracking down now not just on drivers, but on those who continue to serve them alcohol.

Chelsea Willburn, 24, was arrested around closing time last Saturday at the Baker Street Pub and Grill in The Woodlands. Undercover police officers say she repeatedly served mixed drinks to an obviously drunk customer.

Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam said, "The law does not require that she know the person was drunk, only that she act with criminal negligence -- that she should have been aware that he was drunk."

Diepraam lead the new "Bars and Cars" task force -- a joint effort between local law enforcement, the DA, TABC and DPS. The goal is to not only catch drunks on the road, but in the bars, before they get behind the wheel.

"We look wherever we can," Diepraam said.

Alcohol related deaths on the roads of Montgomery County increased 70 to 80 percent this year, according to Diepraam. He says that's in part due to new business growth and the competition among bars for customers.

In June, two teens were killed by an alleged drunk driver going the wrong way on the North Freeway. Three more victims died on I-45 in July in another wrong-way wreck, which authorities say was another DWI.

Diepraam said, "We started to see that much of an increase, we had to do something to try to stop it."

Since then authorities have spent months not just focusing on DWI enforcement on the roads, but also working to educate bar owners and employees about their legal responsibilities not to overserve alcohol. The arrest of Willburn is proof that they're serious about it.

Willburn did not respond to our attempts for comment.

For its part, a spokesperson for the company that owns the bar said, "Baker Street Pub and Grill conducts thorough training of its bartenders and wait staff in compliance with all TABC regulations."

We worked on this story with help from our Houston Community Newspaper partners. You can read more in the Courier of Montgomery County.


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