Bill would save bar owners from paying for predecessors’ crimes

Texas Senator Kirk Watson released the following statement Wednesday about Senate Bill 409, a bill designed to address legal and statutory uncertainties that have arisen through the arrest of Mike Yassine, who owned a number of bars in downtown Austin:

Some business owners and property owners in Austin’s downtown entertainment district have spent much of last year in a regulatory limbo due to the illegal acts, arrest and conviction of Mike Yassine. The bureaucratic quagmire that ensued after Yassine’s arrest, involving a state regulatory agency that exists to protect the public, was as unfortunate as it was ironic.

Today, I filed Senate Bill 409, which allows the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to issue a new license or permit to a bar owner – even if the bar is covered by another license or permit – if an administrative action against an original license holder for that location is pending and that holder has been finally evicted.

The bill arises from a situation I learned of last year. Mr. Yassine had been found guilty of money laundering and was awaiting his sentence. He had been evicted from all of his downtown properties, and his leases had been terminated.

However, since he had a state-issued permit tying himself to those addresses, he was able essentially to hold the properties hostage and prevent them from opening under a new owner. And the TABC – the same agency that issued Mr. Yassine his permit – was taking the position that they lacked the power to stop him from doing it.

This situation demonstrated the need for common sense reforms to protect law-abiding business and property owners from being impeded by regulations that were triggered by the illegal acts of others. S.B. 409 will achieve that by cutting down on red tape and correcting this situation in which common sense dictates one thing and the statute says something else. State agencies should have the discretion to accommodate a qualified, lawful businesses, and S.B. 409 would give it to them.

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