TABC says Texas bars selling cheap stuff as top-shelf alcohol

Chris Porter with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission says patrons at some Texas bars and night clubs might not be getting what they paid for.

"A customer might order some top-shelf liquor, vodka, tequila or something of that nature. And when the server gives them their drink, what they received actually is something that's a little lower quality and so we call that 'brand subsitution' here at TABC," Porter said.

It's the first time the TABC has done an investigation like this according to Porter.

"Our investigators went in and basically ordered a brand of alcohol by name so they pointed at the type of bottle that they wanted and said basically 'give me x, y, z brand.'  And so they collected that sample and covertly removed it from the premises," Porter said.

They now have the technology to test samples of alcohol using a spectrograph.

"Based on that we have chemical profiles from some of the major brands of alcohol that we were ordering in those bars.  And we can compare the results between the sample we collected and the sample of the legitimate liquor that we have," Porter said.

The TABC visited 68 retailers across the state and collected 153 samples. 40 samples from 21 retailers came back as counterfeit...those violations happened in cities like Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, El Paso, McAllen, College Station and others.

Bob Woody is president of the East Sixth Street Community Association and owns more than 20 bars in downtown Austin.

"We're pretty proud of what we do and I think we set the standard for the United States for the most part.  I don't think there's anything busier or better known than Sixth Street so we're going to continue to do the good job we do and I'm glad we're not on that list," Woody said.

Woody wonders if some of this counterfeit liquor is being sold to bars like that.

"True tequila has to come from Mexico.  So what are we receiving?  You know...we know it's in that bottle.  It looks like Patron, it smells like Patron, let's hope it's Patron...but until you test it, is it?" Woody said.

Porter says that's unlikely but it is part of the ongoing investigation.

"There's no reason to go down that road.  In other words we can say 'you know what, we're out of that product, you got the last one a minute ago. We've run out.  Let's just offer something else, maybe give them a deal on it," Woody said.

The TABC is not yet releasing the names of the offending bars and night clubs but they will soon.

For now those retailers are just receiving warnings but if they violate again they may get a fine or a suspended license.

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