Villains Tavern, a hipster bar located in downtown Los Angeles, is under investigation after patrons were killed in an accident after leaving the bar.
Christine Meng, 22, Jason Lieu, 22, Manolo “Simon” Magat, 23, and Joseph Almario, 21 were drinking at the tavern when an Instagram photo of the four was posted with the caption “Drrrannks with the homies.” Nearly an hour later, Meng lost control of her vehicle and it jumped off the 10 and 710 freeway interchange in Alhambra. The accident occurred around 1a.m. on Wednesday, August 1st.
Magat and Almario were killed in the accident. Lieu and Meng were injured. It was determined that Meng had a blood alcohol content of .11. Meng will face DUI and manslaughter charges.
The Instagram photo, in part, prompted an investigation into the popular bar and eatery.
California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Deputy Chief Rick Ryan stated, “It’s incumbent on every ABC licensee to make sure they follow all aspects of California law…[a]nd that includes not serving alcohol…to obviously intoxicated persons and they need to be responsible servers that ensure that their communities are safe.” Recall my post on California’s Dram Shop laws.
Business and Professions Code section 25602(a) states, “Every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any habitual or common drunkard or to any obviously intoxicated person is guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Ryan admits, “It’s very difficult to prove. You have to consider how much time took place between the time they left the bar and the time of the accident. Also, the bartender has to be in a position to see the obvious signs of intoxication.”
Was Meng “obviously intoxicated” with a blood alcohol content of 0.11 percent? There is no doubt that at 0.11 percent, Meng was feeling some effects of the alcohol. But the objective symptoms of intoxication at 0.11 are substantially different from someone who, say, a 0.23 percent BAC level. In fact, according to commonly used BAC charts for women, if Meng was hypothetically anywhere from 120lbs to 140lbs she likely had three alcoholic beverages to be at a 0.11 BAC. It’s unlikely that Meng was “obviously intoxicated” after three drinks. Even if Meng was “obviously intoxicated” how likely would it have been for a bartender to actually have witnessed objective signs of such intoxication?
The Instagram photo, which shows the four friends with drinks at the tavern, gave no indication that it was anything thing other that what happens at thousands of other bars and eateries throughout Southern California on a regular basis. If the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is going to investigate bars and taverns every time a picture of bar patrons is posted to an online social network, or every time a person could be potential over the they’ve got a lot of work ahead of them.