El Paso Music Scene

Letter to TABC; their response

On June 25, before the set of The Cantina Flys, and after that of the previous band, The Dirty Clydes of New Mexico, Ernie AK-47, guitar player of The Cantina Flys, was arrested by the TABC following comments he made to them while they and the EPPD were in Crawdaddy's, the venue, looking for violations. Ernie gave his side of the story on his blog on The Cantina Flys site. Following this, I e-mailed a letter to the TABC. Both my letter to them, and their response, follow below.

There have been previous incidents of El Paso-area police shutting down shows following what they considered disrespect; particularly, the Busta Rhymes show of a few years ago. I believe the same thing happened at a 2 Live Crew show before that.

I have changed Ernie's name in both letters to read "Ernie AK-47," instead of his real name, since that is how he is known in the music world.

My letter to the TABC:

Your agents arrested Ernie (AK-47), guitar player for The Cantina Flys band here in El Paso, on Saturday night at Crawdaddy's on Viscount. Due to this, they had to cancel a show before a good-sized crowd.

I would like to know:
1) Is it normal for the TABC to be arresting people for Public Intoxication? According to Ernie, he was neither mirandized, nor asked to take any breathalyzer test, nor any kind of field sobriety test. The El Paso Police Department was there in the raid, but only the TABC was involved in questioning Ernie, after he had made some comments that the TABC officers did not like.

2) If he was to be arrested for P.I., why would the EPPD not do that?

3) How did your officers determine that Ernie was intoxicated?

4) Why was he questioned? Was this only because he made some comments that the officers did not like?

5) Were the TABC officers parked at the bar with the intention of intimidating customers? Some people have said this to me.

My understanding of the TABC was that the agency was all about ensuring compliance with laws, especially serving alcohol to minors.

Thank you for your time,
many people are interested in this matter,
Charles Hurley

Their response:

Dear Mr. Hurley,

Thank you for taking the time to inquire about the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the agency's mission. Before answering your questions one by one, I would like to explain who TABC is and what we do. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission was formed by legislative action in 1935. The TABC is responsible for all aspects of the alcoholic beverage industry in the state of Texas. As the "government" we regulate the manufacture, storage, distribution, marketing, possession, sale, consumption, and just about anything else you can think of concerning alcoholic beverages (to include the conduct of businesses that have a license or permit and their customers). The most visible division within the agency is the Enforcement Division. Enforcement Agents are licensed state police officers having full arrest powers for any offense committed in the state of Texas. Agents regularly "INSPECT" locations that have licenses or permits, most often these locations are bars, nightclubs and convenience stores. When violations are detected, Enforcement Agents will file criminal charges and prepare complaints for administrative sanctions against licensed/permitted entities. The main focus of the TABC is ensuring the safety of the public.

Specific Answers:
1) Yes, it is normal for TABC Agents to arrest people for public intoxication.

2) Other local law enforcement agencies often accompany TABC during inspections. Quite frequently the local agency has requested assistance from the TABC because the bar owner doesn't recognize the authority of the local agency and mistakenly believes only TABC has the authority to conduct inspections or investigations inside a licensed premise. The El Paso Police Department could have arrested any patrons that were violating laws-however, in this instance agents of the TABC observed the violation and took enforcement action. Since TABC agents observed the violation, those agents are the ones that conducted the arrest.

3) According to the arrest report Mr. (AK-47) exhibited many physical signs of intoxication. Mr. (AK-47) was then interviewed outside in a controlled environment. During the course of the interview, the Agent's suspicion of Mr. (AK-47)'s state of intoxication were confirmed.

4) (Mr. AK-47) was questioned because of his suspected state of intoxication. There were indicators of intoxication other than his comments (which included vulgarities and profanities).

5) TABC does not either by policy or practice park outside bars to intimidate customers. Beyond such a practice being unethical; it is impractical, the TABC has limited resources and cannot efficiently complete its' mission utilizing such tactics.

You are correct in your understanding, the TABC is all about ensuring compliance with laws. However, there are many laws other than those related to minors and alcoholic beverages.

I hope this answers your questions. If you have more please contact me. You may do so through our website (www.tabc.state.tx.us) or email me directly at m.decatur@tabc.state.tx.us. If you would like to visit in person, please contact me by telephone and we can set an appointment that is convenient for you.


Marc Decatur
El Paso District Office
(915) 834-5860

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