Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Al's Tokio Store retains beer license in hearing

Outrage is not enough evidence for judge

Waco – For five years, Mike Cook has kept records - video and some recent decibel readings – he hoped would keep the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission from renewing Al Cinek's license to sell beer and wine.

Al's Tokio Store is in a rural location on Old Railroad Road at Tokio Loop, five miles southwest of West. It's been there, selling cold beer, for more than 100 years. Drovers, railroad men, farmers, itinerant cotton pickers and threshing crews, all have enjoyed blowing the foam off a brew at the Tokio Store.

When Mr. Cook moved into his parents' old home next door, he found he objected to the motorcylists, bands, karaoke singers and people milling around with brewskis in their hands on weekends.

He protested a renewal of the license in Mr. Cinek's name as the new owner in 2010 and triumphed in Constitutional Court when Couty Judge Jim Lewis ruled against the application, even though the TABC offered no evidence of wrongdoing.

An appeal to the 19th Criminal District Court remanded the case back to Judge Lewis' court, where he granted the license after Mr. Cinek promised to try to fix some problems with people leaving the property with open containers, making excessive noise with the bikes, urinating in public, and other complaints brought by Mr. Cook.

When Mr. Cook objected again in 2012, Judge Lewis had the hearing moved to the County Court at Law No. 2, where Judge Brad Cates listened to an afternoon of testimony and viewed numerous videos of bikers standing around in the parking lot, a cold one in their fist.

In one video clip, a murky figure stands in the dark beside the fence and, according to Mr. Cook, urinated. It was pretty much impossible to tell what the figure in the video may have been doing. He was merely a silhouette.

That's when Mr. Cinek's attorney Fred Brown stepped in to cross examine the “protestant,” as the legal papers described Mr. Cook, asking him, “What are we looking at here?...Why are we watching a video of guys standing around, calmly drinking a beer?”

Mr. Cook insisted that what they were doing is illegal.

When Mr. Cinek took the stand, he testified that though the officers of the McLennan County Sheriff's Office come to his establishment nearly every weekend to investigate, they have never arrested anyone for standing in a parking lot created from a County Road easement, drinking a beer.

“They say it's not illegal, as long as they aren't intoxicated,” he said.

Mr. Brown had video of a decibel meter reading between 69 and 70 decibels from his front porch, 250 feet away from the front doors of the store.

He has made constant complaints for many years regarding the noise. To date, the Sheriff's officers have never issued a citation or warned the management to lower the volume of bands playing, the jukebox, or karaoke singers.

In fact, there have never been any arrests made at the store, and a check of TABC records shows no violations of the commission's rules during the period that Mr. Cinek has held a beer and wine sales permit.

At one point, the dialogue between Mr. Brown and Mr. Cook became rather testy when he cross examined the protestant about his statement that the previous court order from Judge Lewis enjoined Mr. Cinek to prevent drinking beer outside his store, to control the actions of his patrons and make them stop.

“Where does it say that?” Mr. Brown asked him, thrusting a copy of the document to him where he sat in the witness box.

“It says it here,” he protested, pointing to the order, but then was unable to find precise words to that effect in the order, which was written by Mr. Brown following the previous hearing held in 2010.

“Then it is wrong,” Mr. Brown told him, much to his visible chagrin.

After brief closing arguments by the two attorneys, Judge Cates settled the long-running dispute with a few simple words.

“I am sitting in an administrative capacity. There is insufficient basis for the protest, and I am granting the license...Mr. Brown, you will prepare an order to that effect.”

Said a relieved Al Cinek, “The load is lifted. I can finally relax.”

In the parking lot across the street from the Courthouse, the former licensees, Charles and Deborah Kirkpatrick, who still own the property and rent it to Mr. Cinek, said they had a similar running dispute with Mr. Cook. As they turned to go, the heavens opened up with a peal of thunder, and lighting flashed.

Mr. Cook refused to answer questions about whether he would appeal the judge's decision. “I'm not talking about that to anybody,” he said.


  1. Heck yeah im proud he got his license..people dont like I cant help that

  2. Im sorry mr cook is upset but if he owns that option is find a good renter that drinks and find him another not near this establishment or near one like this!!!!!!

  3. I have enjoyed a good cold beer there several times over many many years. I have drank outside and danced in the street while listening to the band. One of my late uncle darlo lemmonds favorite places to go. Glad to hear everything worked out well Al. Hopefully I will be able to stop in before I PCS to Ft. Lenard Wood, MO.