Bars on alert for over-served customers after crackdown

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With prosecutions of bartenders accused of over-serving on the rise, many bars are becoming more vigilant in watching for customers who've had too much to drink.

Nights like Fat Tuesday mean bars are busy, even in the middle of the week. Lawless Spirits downtown is an upscale bar serving a lot of business people and young professionals, but even here, bartenders are keeping a close eye for anyone on the verge of being over-served.

"It all boils down to accountability," said bartender Joshua Winklemann.

He supports bartenders being charged if they're shown to have contributed to a DUI crash.

In Harris County, there have been several bartenders and bar employees led out of their establishments in handcuffs over the past several months after being accused of over-serving or serving minors.

"The only cases that we've brought were not a close call, fake ID or something like that, but where the evidence shows the server absolutely knew the person was drunk or absolutely knew they were a minor," Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said.

The district attorney's office said going after establishments is a way to address the problem at its source.

Just within the past week, a Lyft passenger was killed and the driver was left in a coma after a 21-year-old allegedly left a bar. That business is now under investigation.

Winklemann said while it can get awkward when refusing to serve someone, it's not only the right thing to do, it's what they're trained for.

"Because sometimes you have to cut people off and they get kind of nasty about it, but it's the proper thing to do, looking out for the community," he said.

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