The City Beer Board on Thursday suspeneed the beer license of Southern Comfort, 511 Broad St., for six consecutive days. The penalty was the result of two separate violations of the beer code.
The first occurred in the early morning of March 16. A Chattanooga Police officer was on patrol around 2 a.m. when he observed what appeared to be an intoxicated individual attempting to get into a parked car. Officer Adam Cooley, reading from the violation sheet written by the officer at the scene, described the man as being unsteady, stumbling, and having a difficult time opening his car door.
He then followed the automobile which was being driven erratically. When the stop was made, Officer Cooley arrived as a backup and watched as a sobriety test was administered.
An audio/video made of the entire incident was shown to the beer board to validate the accusations. The mental and motor skills of the man were shown to be obviously impaired, as well as his verbal communication. He was unable to recite the “ABCs”, saying that he hadn’t practiced it in 15 years. He was also unable to count backwards, or walk a straight line.
He told the police that he had been served 25 shots that night at Southern Comfort and had been drinking at Big River Grille earlier in the day. During the confrontation with police, a waitress came out of the bar attempting to settle his tab which showed that he actually had purchased 12 shots that evening running up an $80 bill. In the video of the incident, the waitress could be heard telling the officers, “Don’t listen to me, I’m wasted”. The consumption of alcohol, in an establishment by any employee of a bar is forbidden by the rules that govern the beer code. This added to the infractions that occurred at the Broad Street establishment.
After being booked, the man told Officer Cooley that he had been intoxicated before he got to Southern Comfort, and during the video an officer could be heard asking if the man remembered doing the same test two weeks earlier. Because of a pending DUI case, he refused to take the blood-alcohol test, but from the other evidence presented, it was apparent to the members of the beer board that the customer was sufficiently impaired for the waitress to have recognized. The business was held accountable by a suspension of the beer license for three consecutive days from May 24-27.
On April 13, an altercation occurred in the ladies room of the VIP lounge at Southern Comfort, involving three girls that were acquaintances. They were taking pictures of each other in front of a full-length mirror, when one girl assaulted another by sticking her fingernail into the other girls’ chin. As the one who had been attacked rushed out to leave the restaurant, she passed by Darren Webb, an employee that she recognized had stamped her hand on entering. The witness said she was not really looking for anybody to tell, but in passing commented that there was blood on the floor in the room where she had been attacked. While waiting for the car that was picking them up, the second witness made a similar comment to the doorman. Neither girl intentionally sought an employee to make an official complaint.
After contemplating the incident 10 days later, the girl who had been assaulted filed a police report and took out a warrant for the one accused of the attack. The ordinance that was violated by Southern Comfort in this case requires that any disorder occurring on the premise of an establishment that serves beer be reported immediately. Because the police did not receive a report for 10 days, and the report came from the girls not from employees of the bar, another three-day suspension to run consecutively to the first one was issued. The beer license suspension for this offense will be from May 27-29.
Ron Smith admonished the applicants who were present of their responsibility to not serve beer to minors and that their establishments be good neighbors to those surrounding them.
Several new businesses came before the board seeking a beer license. Skyzoo, 5709 Lee Highway, represented by Leonardo Dacoregio, was approved since all inspections had been completed. Jake Honegger, general manager of the new Springhill Suites by Marriott, 495 Riverfront Parkway, was granted a permit for a hotel bar that will serve only finger food and appetizers and beer on the premises.
Friends of the Festival is gearing up for Riverbend 2012. Chip Baker came before the beer board and explained that the beer and food concessions for the 10-day event will be operated by non-profit organizations including the Navy, The Chattanooga Rugby Club, Flying Disc Club, a ministry and a motorcycle club and McKamey Animal Center. He told the board that his organization is providing three training periods for the beer vendors and that a manual had been prepared teaching them how to conform to the beer code. He added that the Bessie Smith Strut will be a separate entity this year, but that they had teamed up together and the vendors for that event and for the Riverbend site will be given the same training. The beer board thanked Mr. Baker for his work organizing the Festival and unanimously approved granting the beer license for June 8-16 from 3:30 p.m.-1 a.m.
This year each vendor at the Bessie Smith Strut is required to obtain an individual beer license. Most of the locations serving beer will be outside, therefore will not require building, health and fire inspections. The two exceptions are Champy’s Fried Chicken and The Lindsay Street Hall. These two businesses already hold a license and will be allowed to operate their restaurants and serve beer inside their buildings or on their patios after the streets have been cleared of the Strut patrons at 8 p.m.
A site plan for all vendors has been established for the venue. Those issued a beer license at the meeting today are Irvin Overton for Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E.M.L.K.; Elijah Cameron, Jr. at 9th Street management & Development Corp. for vacant lots 413-419 E.M.L.K.; Seth Champion, Champy’s Fried Chicken 526 E.M.L.K.; Michael Pack, Revolution Sound, 233 E.M.L.K.; Calvin Ball at Tower Construction, 328 E.M.L.K.; Richard Heinsman, Jr., at 336 E.M.L.K.; Richard Heinsman, Jr. outside his law office at 823 Houston St.; Steven Stallings, Roshanna’s Hair & Beauty Bar, 320 E.M.L.K.; Andrew Jackson for Jackson Motor Service, 622 E.M.L.K.; and Kenneth Edwin Crisp for the Lindsay Street Hall, 910 Lindsay Street. These licenses will be issued for June 11 from 4-8 p.m.
The beer board members were told that there would be a central location where consumers would be carded and issued a tamper-proof wrist band furnished through Budweiser. Keith Reisman, assistant city attorney, said his office has been working closely with the planners of the Bessie Smith Strut. He said there will be at least two trained people at each site selling beer. He added that the attorney’s office appreciates and thanks Karen Shostak from Friends of the Festival and Rose Martin with the Bessie Smith Strut for the stellar job they have done in organizing and coordinating the events.
The board members reconvening as the Chattanooga Wrecker Board heard a request from Police Officer John Collins to remove a wrecker service from the rotation list of the Chattanooga Police Department. The violations were for Terry Wilson and Ace Towing and Recovery, 4018 Dodds Ave. Officer Collins related that for the prior month the phone has not been answered at that business, and certified letters had not been acknowledged or responded to. He also said that the location looks as if it is vacant and the company appears to be out of business. There had been an attempt to notify Mr. Wilson of the hearing before the Wrecker Board but with no response and no representative present, the board elected to revoke the license and remove the company from the city’s rotation list.