Bill of the Week: Post-Bust Syndrome
Watson would plug holes in Downtown bar biz
By Michael King, 10:30AM, Sat. Feb. 23
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is – unsurprisingly – a very sober bunch, not much given to licensing exceptions. Austin Sen. Kirk Watson's SB 409 would allow them to make one, specifically when their by-the-book procedures are bar-blocking Downtown bidness.
At issue is the now-legendary 2012 bust/closing of nine clubs in the Great Club Cocaine Scandal, or as Richard Whittaker had it, "The Yassine Sixth Street Noir" (May 18, 2012). Hussein Ali "Mike" Yassine was convicted of money-laundering (amidst a myriad of other charges) and was awaiting sentencing, but he still nominally held the liquor licenses on the nine venues, as the TABC slow-rolled its ponderous wheels in getting those formally lifted.
As a result, nine prime Downtown locations were going begging (so to speak) for new owners who couldn't timely hope to get new licenses while the TABC claimed state prevented it from granting them as long as Yassine held tight.
Enter Watson's SB 409, which would authorize the agency to issue new permits while the termination action was pending, provided standard conditions had been met and the current holder had been "evicted from the premises under a final, nonappealable court judgment." As Watson put it on his web site, "This situation demonstrated the need for common sense reforms to protect law-abiding business and property owners from being impeded by regulations that were triggered by the illegal acts of others. S.B. 409 will achieve that by cutting down on red tape and correcting this situation in which common sense dictates one thing and the statute says something else. State agencies should have the discretion to accommodate a qualified, lawful businesses, and S.B. 409 would give it to them."
Since the bill (if passed) wouldn't take effect until Sept. 1, it's a little late to do much about Austin's specific Yassine Bar Vacuum. But since the Texas bar business is not renowned for legally squeaky-clean operations, it probably won't be long before the TABC can cite chapter and verse in issuing new licenses to successor owners of formerly disgraced venues.