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Saturday, December 02, 2023 — Houston, TX

Students receive MIPs, Pub found in violation at last Pub Night of the decade


By Christina Tan     12/7/19 4:44pm

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission opened a complaint against TABC-licensed Willy’s Pub following infractions for underage drinking seen on Thursday’s Pub Night, according to TABC official Chris Porter. This is the first time in history that TABC has brought charges against Pub, according to a TABC report produced by an open records request.

One sophomore, whose identity has been anonymized to protect them from punishment, said she was told in line that “cops were here.” 

“Someone was like ‘don’t use fakes tonight, there are cops,’” she said. “As I was about to go in, someone else who was already inside told me that as well.”

TABC conducted its first-ever undercover investigation of Pub at the “Last Pub of the Decade” event after they received a complaint from a community member, according to Porter. Porter said that after witnessing infractions at Pub, TABC decided to issue two charges — one for selling alcohol to a minor and the other for permitting a minor to possess or consume alcohol on the premises. 

Frank Rodriguez said that Valhalla & Willy’s Permits, the overseer of Pub and Valhalla, was investigating the issue and had not yet determined consequences at time of publication.

“We will be working closely with Rice University on sorting out consequences and implications of violations at Pub.  In the meantime Willy's will remain closed until further notice,“ Frank Rodriguez, Board President of V&W, said.  “Pub is already closed for winter break and so we will work to make any needed changes as soon as possible.”

Although multiple students claimed they were breathalyzed or saw breathalyzer tests occur, Porter denied these claims. Pub management declined two requests for comment. 

Multiple students reported seeing officers ticket students, which Porter confirmed. If convicted, the ticketed students would receive Class C misdemeanors and up to $500 in fines

“We issued three citations for minors in possession (MIPs) to some of the individuals at the bar,” Porter said. “These folks were given their citations and released.”

Another student, whose identity has been anonymized to protect them from punishment, said he saw the officers standing outside of Pub for the majority of the night, occasionally entering Pub and walking around. 

“I personally saw them go up to someone who was 21 and drinking a beer and they asked to see her ID,” he said. “A few minutes later they walked back in and it looked like they asked a student to step outside Pub, but I’m not sure if he was drinking or of age or anything about that.”

Rice University Police Department was not involved in or informed of this investigation, according to RUPD Captain Clemente Rodriguez. 

“When TABC authorities conduct operations such as this one, they are not obligated to inform or coordinate with any other law enforcement agency,” Clemente Rodriguez said. “RUPD will continue to enforce the [Rice] University Alcohol Policy as we have done in the past, which requires following all state laws regarding the use and distribution of alcohol on campus.”

Typically, TABC will conduct follow-up investigations following community complaints, according to Porter. According to TABC public records, multiple complaints have been filed against Pub in the past, including one in May for selling and serving to a minor, but none of those complaints resulted in administrative violations. 

Screenshot from the TABC database showing a community complaint against Pub in May.

In 2007 TABC had asked RUPD about the location of Pub and in 2016 TABC opened an investigation into Wiess College’s party, Night of Decadence, after 11 students were transported in 2012. In 2009, Pub received a written warning but no violation. An open record request (embedded below) shows that this is Pub’s first time violating TABC policy as an institution and TABC’s first time performing an undercover investigation, but it is not the first time TABC has visited Pub nor the first time TABC has issued MIPs. 

Screenshot from TABC database showing one written warning for Pub in 2009.

Contents of an open records request detailing the history between TABC and Pub.

Now that TABC has filed charges, the next steps are working toward a resolution between V&W and TABC.

“Everyone has a right to due process, [so] we’ll be trying to schedule a meeting with the owners of Willy’s to settle the case,” Porter said. “They do have a right to a hearing, and if they choose to pursue that, we’ll be working with them [and] the judge to make sure they get their day in court.” 

This story will be updated with information from the open records request.

News Editor Rishab Ramapriyan contributed to this report.

[12/7/2019 4:57 p.m.] This article has been updated with additional information about Pubs 2009 written warning.

[12/8/2019 9:23 p.m.] This article has been updated with information and quotes from Frank Rodriguez.

[12/9/2019 1:58 p.m.] This article has been corrected and updated with information from an open records request, which confirmed that this was Pub’s first violation but also showed that this was not TABC’s first visit to Pub. 

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