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Bartender arrested for serving alleged drunk driver

PHARR — A bartender wanted for serving alcohol to an allegedly intoxicated patron turned himself in to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on Tuesday.
/ Source: The McAllen Monitor

PHARR — A bartender wanted for serving alcohol to an allegedly intoxicated patron turned himself in to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on Tuesday.

But the arrest has prompted some to question how much responsibility bar owners hold for their customer’s actions.

According to the TABC, Jaime Alberto Gonzalez Cadena, 24, sold four drinks to a man who police say went on to kill two young cousins in a Nov. 25 drunken-driving incident.

Antonio Macias, the 32-year-old patron, hit a Jeep Cherokee near the intersection of Farm-to-Market Road 495 and Shary Road in Mission. The impact killed 7-year-old Guillermo Miranda Jr. and 3-year-old Arian Morales, and injured three others.

According to police, Macias was driving with a blood alcohol content level of .13 — the legal driving limit is .08. He told Mission police that Gonzalez had served him four mixed drinks in an hour at the Tejas Sports Bar on "I" Road in Pharr.

His detailed account of the night allowed investigators to follow his trail back to Gonzalez and the bar, TABC Senior Agent Aida Cantu said.

TABC agents announced a warrant for Gonzalez’s arrest Friday afternoon. The bartender contacted the commission over the weekend and made plans to surrender to agents, Cantu said. He was arrested early Tuesday morning.

Justice of the Peace Bobby Contreras formally charged Gonzalez with selling alcohol to an intoxicated person and set bond at $15,000.

But in order to secure a conviction on the charge, prosecutors will have to prove that Gonzalez not only ignored Macias’ potential risk to others but also acted in a way that "grossly deviates" from the conceivable actions of any ordinary person, according to the state’s alcoholic beverage code.

The distinction leaves room for interpretation, Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra said.

"When you start talking about specific legal terms, that tends to send people into a tailspin," he said.

The uncertain line between reckless behavior and criminal negligence has made convictions on the charge fairly uncommon, Cantu said. But she credits Mission police with establishing the link between Macias and the Tejas Sports Bar.

It was unclear Tuesday how many bartenders have been previously convicted under the law.

But to outsiders like Juan Sanchez of Mission, the commission’s actions appear arbitrary.

Sanchez’s 18-year-old daughter, Jessica, died after being hit by a drunken driver last summer along Farm-to-Market Road 1016 in Mission.

"Why wasn’t this done in my situation?" he said. "They’re going after this bartender; why couldn’t they go after mine?"

Identifying drunken customers is often a matter of judgment, said Sally Vera, a server certification instructor with Corpus Christi-based Alianza Certification Training.

Vera offers her students guidelines based on weight and the number of drinks consumed in a given time period. But ultimately, bartenders have the right to refuse service to anyone, she said.

"A lot of people don’t know that they can do this without accusing someone (of being drunk)," she said.

Gonzalez had not attended a certification program prior to employment at the sports bar, Cantu said. While state law does not require bartenders to hold such certifications, many bar owners require all employees to undergo training.

Cantu said Friday that she had taught a class at the bar earlier this year on identifying minors and intoxicated patrons. Gonzalez was among her students, she said.

If convicted, Gonzalez could face fines of up to $4,000 and a jail sentence of up to one year.

Macias, who remains in the Hidalgo County jail, faces two charges of intoxication manslaughter and three counts of intoxication assault.

Meanwhile, the TABC has moved to cancel the sports bar’s liquor license, Cantu said. If a judge sides with the commission, the bar will have to wait more than a year before it is eligible to re-apply.

"My advice to bartenders is to really keep tabs on their customers," Cantu said.

"They have to be really aware of the type of alcohol they’re serving and who they’re serving to."


Jeremy Roebuck covers law enforcement and general assignments for