Music and Arrests at Metro
Just before Kansas' own Split Lip Rayfield was set to take the stage at a SXSW showcase March 15 at the Metro on Sixth Street, a line of Austin police, led by a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent, quietly wound its way through the accumulating crowd and arrested the club's bartenders and general manager, who were later charged with selling liquor without a license. "It was definitely orchestrated," said former Metro owner Josh Cisneros, who recently sold his share in the club to Sixth Street fixture Bob Woody but continues to book the club's music.
Since Feb. 1 the club has operated without a liquor license due to a holding change; the application is still pending. In the meantime, the club has been offering free beer to its patrons -- a perfectly legal activity, as long as it also doesn't charge cover at the door or sell cups intended to contain the free booze. Since the club was a SXSW venue, and SXSW charges cover at the door (keeping the cash), Cisneros realized there could be a potential conflict.
"We [Cisneros and Woody] had a meeting with TABC that Friday at 3pm," Cisneros said, "and we told them that SXSW charges cover and that that has nothing to do with the Metro." Cisneros says TABC Lt. David Ferrero told him that even under those circumstances, the Metro would still be in the clear to offer free beer to its patrons. "But then TABC comes in and arrests us for selling beer," Cisneros said, "and the argument was that we were charging cover at the door."
Cisneros believes that the TABC and the APD's underage drinking task force have been unfairly targeting the Metro. When he told the arresting officers that he had just had a meeting with Ferrero, he said, the officers pled ignorance. Further, he added, the TABC agent at the scene told the Metro's general manager that the officers' intention was to ensure that the club's owners wouldn't receive the pending liquor license. "They told him, 'We're going to make sure you guys don't open.'"
TABC's Ferrero admitted he met with Cisneros and Woody and approved the setup established between the Metro and SXSW, but explained that when an undercover TABC agent tried to enter the club Friday night, he was told that the cover included the free beer. "In fact, they said exactly the opposite [of what they were supposed to say]," Ferrero said. On top of that, Cisneros was arrested for serving a minor.
"That's bullshit," Cisneros responds. The minor, he said, was his 20-year-old girlfriend, who was accompanied by her mother -- again, a perfectly legal circumstance under which to serve beer.
New owner Woody wasn't on the scene Friday night, but perceives the situation as a misunderstanding. He disagrees with Cisneros that the TABC is singling out the Metro. "They were giving away free beer and they were not taking any money at the door," Woody said, adding that Ferrero "will make good on [the agreement], he's just that kind of guy."