Last week, the results of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s “Bottoms Up” sting revealed that in at least a few bars across Texas, you might not be getting that top-shelf booze that you ordered. The operation, the first ever of its kind, identified that at least five Dallas-Fort Worth Bars had, on at least on occasion, served counterfeit booze to its customers. At present, the only Dallas bar that has been identified is Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill.
The Grill, which is right across the street from its sister operation Gas Monkey Live!, was given a written warning from the TABC, and no further action will be taken against the bar. The TABC took multiple samples from each location they investigated, and only one sample from Gas Monkey Bar N’ Grill was proven to be fraudulent According to general manager Alex Mendonsa, the spirit in question was Patron tequila. Mendonsa also told the Observer that the bar has spent “countless hours” trying to determine how the inferior liquor could have been swapped for Patron.
“One explanation could be that Patron is served chilled, which can water down the product if testing wasn’t done immediately,” says Mendonsa. “We would never refill bottles with a cheaper alternative or serve a cheaper liquor in place of premium. Not only is that unethical, but also because it puts too much at risk — our liquor permit and our reputation are only two examples. We are too high-profile to take such extreme measures to save a few nickels.”
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According to TABC spokesman Chris Porter, the Bottoms Up sting originated after his organization had received complaints from drinkers who thought that they weren’t getting what they were ordering. From there, the TABC sent undercover officers into bars selected at random, where they ordered a straight sample of a particular brand-name spirit by name. In a sort of Mission:Impossible style twist, the agents covertly removed the samples from the bar, where they were taken to Austin to be analyzed against the chemical profile of the beverages ordered.
In the case of Gas Monkey, Porter also notes that the counterfeit sample could be simply chalked up to human error, which is largely why the organization walked away with a slap on the wrist. Only one sample from the bar came back counterfeit, which is why they were only issued a written warning. Other bars, where infractions may be more egregious, face deeper scrutiny of their liquor-serving practices, including fines and the potential loss of their license to serve liquor. At present, only four of 21 investigations have been closed.
Of 153 samples collected, says Porter, only 40 samples were determined to be counterfeit. 68 bars across Texas were part of the sting, initiating more than 20 investigations. At present, the investigation continues into bars in Addison and Irving, which will not be named until a final report is released. According to Porter, this investigation, the first of its kind, was largely conducted to put booze retailers on notice: if you try to screw over your customers with cheap booze, the TABC is going to find out about it.