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3 Austin bars shut down after year-long TABC investigation

3 Austin bars shut down after year-long TABC investigation

Two glasses of whiskey on a bar
TABC pulled the liquor licenses from three Austin bars. iStock

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) has effectively shut down three Austin bars amid allegations of organized crime, including illegal drug trafficking, occurring at the establishments.

TABC announced May 2 that it had yanked the alcohol-selling permits for La Movida Night Club Bar & Grill, 2538 Elmont Dr.; Los Cocodrilos Bar, 9601 N. I-35; and Perikos Bar, 1611 Dungan Ln.

All three bars are now closed. Chris Porter, a TABC spokesman, says the three bars theoretically could have remained open, but there’d be no financial incentive for them to do business without being able to sell alcohol. “We’ll check all three locations over the next few weeks to ensure no alcohol is sold there,” Porter says.

In a news release, TABC says an investigation turned up evidence of trafficking in illegal drugs — identified by Porter as cocaine and crystal meth — and of a practice known as “drink solicitation.”

“Drink solicitation occurs when a licensed business’ employees offer to spend time with a customer if that customer purchases a drink for them at a marked-up price,” TABC says. Drink solicitation can be a gateway to other crimes, such as prostitution, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and money laundering, according to Porter.

After a year-long investigation, TABC immediately pulled the alcohol-selling permits for the three bars after investigators witnessed alleged drug trafficking and drink solicitation on April 20, Porter says.

“One of TABC’s primary missions is keeping the public safe, so we view closing these locations as a win,” says Captain Ron Swenson, a member of the agency’s Special Investigations Unit. “Selling narcotics out of a licensed business and/or engaging in drink solicitation are serious crimes which can lead to any number of public safety as well as public welfare concerns. Closing these bars is one of many tools in our toolbox when it comes to upholding public safety.”

No criminal charges have been filed by TABC in connection with this case, Porter says. The Texas Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security continue to investigate allegations of organized crime at the three bars, according to TABC.