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Public Nuisance Lawsuit Leads to Bar Booze Ban

Multiple shootings, assaults, aggravated robberies, narcotics, and other crimes. At least four patrons arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated. One intoxication assault of a police officer. A grand total of 90 arrests at the location since it opened. Perhaps Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg wasn't far off when she called Houston sports bar Bombshells a "crime factory."

Ogg's office filed a public nuisance lawsuit against the bar last week, and obtained a temporary restraining order banning the bar from serving booze until the case is resolved. And rather than serve food exclusively during the ban, the bar's owners chose to shut up shop completely.

Magnets for Crime

"We're trying to stop the carnage that results from many intoxicated people leaving Bombshells and hurting someone else," Ogg said after filing the nuisance suit. "Bombshells on I-45 has been a magnet and a source for a lot of crime in the restaurant-bar, the parking lot, and this is classically what we call a nuisance." The lawsuit against Bombshells has been seen as part of the new district attorney's office task force attempting to trace alcohol causing drunken-driving crashes to its source.

Bombshells petitioned District Judge Steven Kirkland to dismiss the restraining order, but that request was rejected this week. Bar owners have yet to comment publicly on the matter.

Liability for Nuisance

Public nuisance refers to a range of minor crimes that threaten the health, morals, safety, comfort, convenience, or welfare of a community. Businesses declared a public nuisance can face criminal penalties like fines, and may also be required to remove the nuisance or to pay for the removal. And businesses normally can't escape liability by arguing that others are also contributing to the harm -- liability and damages are usually apportioned according to the business's share of the blame. Additionally, a business could be liable under nuisance law even if its actions (like, say, serving alcohol) would not have constituted a nuisance without the actions of others (like assaults, shootings, and drunk driving).

Being declared a public nuisance can shut down your business. Make sure to avoid public nuisance lawsuits or respond to them properly by consulting with competent corporate counsel.

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