|By Leila Fadel, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Texas|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
May 13, 2005 - GRAPEVINE -- An administrative law judge has proposed fining the Hyatt Regency DFW hotel $375,000 or suspending its alcohol permits for 75 days.
The recommendation comes after a man at a 1999 New Year's party at the hotel left with a blood alcohol level three times the then-legal limit and was killed by a pickup as he walked onto International Parkway.
The hotel is accused of serving alcohol to David Clopton, 30, while he was intoxicated.
Administrative Law Judge Robert F. Jones Jr. agreed. The hotel did not "promote the general welfare and safety" of its patrons, he said in his recommendation issued Wednesday.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission will decide whether to accept the recommendation within 30 days. During the hearing in January, commission officials had asked that the hotel's three alcohol permits be canceled.
Agency attorney Timothy Griffith said he was satisfied with Jones's recommendation.
"It was a fair and accurate decision," Griffith said.
A commission investigation determined that the hotel staff did not stop Clopton from leaving while intoxicated. Officials said that he had the equivalent of 16 drinks in his system when he died and that his blood alcohol level was 0.31.
Witnesses said that during the four hours Clopton was at the hotel, they saw him drink three beers in the first hour and one to three beers during the last hour. The hotel is required by the commission to monitor the number and type of alcoholic drinks that patrons are drinking.
In a statement, hotel general manager Tom Smith said that the hotel plans to appeal.
"We take responsible alcohol management very seriously, with regular training and TABC certification training that is required of all servers and bartenders," Smith wrote. "While we are confident there was no wrongdoing by Hyatt, our sympathies remain with the family."
The hotel is being investigated by the commission on a separate case involving alcohol, said Lt. Karen Smith, a spokeswoman for the agency. In February, a 20-year-old man drank so much alcohol at a hotel bar that he passed out and was taken to an area hospital.
David Clopton's parents, John and Barbara Clopton, drove to Austin and reported their son's death to the agency in 2000, John Clopton said. The couple found some comfort in Wednesday's recommendation.
"It's a step in the right direction but I feel like the evidence and the facts demand cancellation," Clopton said. "We still have a lot of problems with the loss of David and our grief is still here -- our life will never be the same."
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