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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
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Texas Bar’s License Revoked Amid Trafficking Investigation


Mission, Texas, water tower | Image by City of Mission Texas

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The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) announced it had revoked the liquor permit for a Hidalgo County bar while a human trafficking investigation proceeds.

“By removing this bar’s ability to sell alcohol, TABC agents have cut off a major source of funding for criminal activity in the Mission community,” TABC Executive Director Thomas Graham said on Wednesday.

The TABC director added that he was proud of the investigators’ hard work and thanked the community members who assisted with the Mission case.

“Not only does this keep the community safer, but it also makes it easier for businesses who follow the law to operate successfully,” he said.

Following a meeting with agents from the TABC’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) on August 9, the bar’s owner yielded the establishment’s liquor license.

SIU agents began investigating the business — the El Rio Bar, located at 3609 N. La Homa Rd. in Mission —  in 2020 after receiving information about possible organized crime, including human trafficking.

Agents allegedly seized narcotics and observed multiple incidents of apparent drink solicitation during the investigation. Drink solicitation occurs when an alcohol retailer allows an employee to sell drinks to a customer at a higher-than-listed price, according to the TABC.

The establishment was charged with multiple Alcoholic Beverage Code violations, including drink solicitation, prostitution, and employee sale of narcotics. TABC investigators also referred several potential human trafficking victims to non-governmental organizations for victim services.

The owner has not commented on the allegations.

Section 11.614 of the alcoholic beverage code allows the TABC to revoke a licensed business’s liquor permit if the function of that business is deemed a risk to public safety.

Similarly, the TABC reported in late July it had suspended the liquor permit of Ciro’s Bar & Kitchen East in El Paso following narcotics sales allegations.

According to a TABC emergency order signed by the agency, the establishment at 1610 N. Zaragoza Rd. could not sell or serve alcohol for 90 days.

Ciro’s Bar & Kitchen East is still under investigation by the TABC, which began in September 2020 following reports of alleged narcotics sales. The company was also the subject of over 100 calls for service received by local law enforcement authorities.

“Criminal activity at a licensed business not only endangers the surrounding community, it makes it harder for law-abiding business owners to safely operate and support their families,” Graham said. “TABC will continue to work with our partners in local and state law enforcement to put a stop to violations such as this wherever they are found.”

Authorities are still investigating the El Paso and Mission cases.    

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