FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A North Texas liquor store has agreed to surrender its license after being accused of selling vodka to a teen who later died with five friends in a fire.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on Monday said USA Liquor in Fort Worth will give up its alcohol permit March 4.
Investigators say alcohol consumption may have been a factor in preventing the victims from escaping the March 6, 2011, fire at a Granbury home during a birthday party. The state alleges the store sold three bottles of vodka to an underage teen who died in the fire.
“I never knew what grief was until this happened,” said Stacey Reineck, a mother of one of the victims.
Reineck and her daughter Celeste are facing their first Christmas without Calvin, a son and brother. It was he, investigators say, who organized the party that night.
“Kids decided to have a party as kids will do, and underage kids decided to have a party,” Reineck said.
Three people escaped the flames, but Calvin and five others did not. Celeste was there, but was involved in an automobile wreck afterwards.
“I would probably have been there probably sleeping with the rest of them,” she said.
Neither Reineck parent was at the party, either. Celeste claims much of that night is a vague memory but admits, “I was a part of it, but my brother was much more the party planner.”
But both say the owner who sold the alcohol bears blame too.
When he tried to renew his license, families of the victims approached State Sen. Wendy Davis (D – Fort Worth) to help them block it.
“It’s difficult because the state has to demonstrate this person has a pattern, and a knowing pattern, of selling to minors,” Davis said.
TABC says that after the fire, two minors in undercover operations purchased booze at the same store. Following a flurry of letters to Davis and the TABC along with a threat of a legal hearing, the owner on Monday agreed to surrender hte license by March.
“We know that other people have sold alcohol to minors and we hope other people will think twice before doing this because it’s just not cool to sell alcohol to minors,” Stacey Reineck said.
The mother says she plans no civil action and want to move on from the tragedy. Celeste admitted that she learned a hard lesson.
“There’s always going to be consequences for your actions whether they come immediately or whether how many times you get away with something,” she said. “Eventually it will come and get you. And it’s not going to be pretty.”
Store owner James Joseph Buckley this fall was sentenced to a year of probation after pleading guilty in August to two charges of selling alcohol to a minor. He declined to comment for this story.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)