An Instagram photo of four friends holding drinks at the Villains Tavern bar in downtown LA has prompted an investigation into the way the venue serves their patrons. The two men pictured in the photo both lost their lives later that night in a drunk driving accident.
Christine Meng, 22, Manolo "Simon" Magat, 23, Joseph Almario, 21, and Jason Lieu, 22, all from San Gabriel, were drinking at the bar Monday evening when Magat shared the photo below on his Instagram, CBS reports. The caption on the photo reads, “Drrrannnks with the homies," and Villains Tavern is geotagged.
Tragically, later that night, Meng, who was driving the group, lost control of the wheel, and the car plunged into the air off the side of the interchange between the 10 and the 710 freeways at about 1 a.m., the Los Angeles Times reports.
Magat and Almario were instantly killed. When Meng was given a breathalyzer test at the scene of the accident, she had a blood alcohol level of .11 percent, well over the .08 percent legal limit.
Lieu suffered moderate injuries, and Meng is still in the hospital with a broken arm and three broken vertebrae, according to CBS. Upon release, she will face felony DUI and manslaughter charges.
John Carr, a spokesman for the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), told The Huffington Post it is illegal for bartenders to serve alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person. ABC has begun investigating Villains Tavern, confirmed Carr, and if any wrongdoing is found, the end result could be a fine, a suspension of license or a revocation of license.
However, California ABC Deputy Chief Rick Ryan told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that it is very difficult to penalize a bar unless there were undercover officers, witnesses or surveillance video. "You have to consider how much time took place between the time they left the bar and the time of the accident," he said. "Also, the bartender has to be in a position to see the obvious signs of intoxication."
The ABC is the sole issuer of alcohol licenses in California and sends undercover agents to bars and stores for the primary purpose of reducing drunk driving, Carr told HuffPost.
The ABC also launched an investigation last year of the popular Huntington Beach bar Sharkeez, which had 72 patrons arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in just 22 months, according to 2011 data from the CA Office of Traffic and Safety. Huntington Beach reportedly had the largest number of alcohol-related crashes per-capita in California, according to the same data.
Magat's instagram photo, which has 81 "likes," has become a memorial to him and Almario, with friends and acquaintances writing condolences in comments.
simon, i am truly at a loss of words when i try to say that i am so sorry for what has come to pass. you were always such a happy soul, full of love. thank you so much for always being such a character for us. you will be dearly missed. love you.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the legal blood alcohol level. We apologize for this error.