Gambling and drug violations on Thursday led the Chattanooga Beer Board to revoke the beer license held by T&B Lounge, located at 2407 Glass St. Board members were told that multiple anonymous complaints had been received on the police hotline about what was going on at the club.
A special investigator with the Chattanooga Police Department’s vice squad responded to the anonymous calls by going to the club and observing the activity himself. Additionally, he sent a confidential informant who witnessed the same things that he had seen. A search warrant for the establishment was served on July 31 at 10 p.m. This was the second time a search warrant had been served on the lounge.
When the police arrived, there were approximately 25-30 people inside the bar. Gambling paraphernalia was found in the form of tip books, and illegal lottery tickets were being written. Over $1,000 cash was on hand and being used for gambling purposes, the board was told.
Drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and oxycondone, were all found both in and outside of the business. As police entered the building, the customers dropped much of the evidence on the floor before they could be caught. There was confirmation that the drugs had been used inside, substantiated by the smell in the building and small “roaches” found on the floor, said the detective. Drug activity was also taking place in the parking lot which is the responsibility of the business, it was stated.
Additionally, a concealed pistol was found in the car of Thomas Williams who volunteers to keep order at the bar. He does this to help his daughter who owns the establishment. Mr. Williams said he kept the weapon for his personal protection despite the fact that he has no license to have a concealed weapon. It was pointed out that is a federal crime. Mr. Williams was also asked if he understood that gambling is in violation of the beer code, to which he responded “I guess I should have.”
The owner, Trina Fugh, told the board that the business closes at 10 p.m. and that they do their best to clear the parking lots at that time, but some of the action occurs in other lots and in front of the building. In November 2011, T&B Lounge had a three-day suspension of its beer license for operating a disorderly place. Since that time, Mr. Williams told the board that he had posted no loitering signs all around the property. The bar also hired someone to guard the door and another for the parking lot to keep it clear.
Officer John Collins said he, too, had received complaints about the bar, including the parking lot being blocked and the fact that there were always people loitering outside, drinking. He told the beer board that the Hamilton County Neighborhood Coalition had been notified of the disorders around this business. Hugh Reese and Sonja Brewer, both with the coalition, spoke, saying that the location is a high crime area, with high drug use and a lot of violence. It was stated that there is a lot of intimidation toward the neighbors and, because of the “fear factor,” people both old and young are afraid of groups in the club and in the parking lots so they fail to notify authorities of the problems. They both told the beer board that anything that could be done about the troubles would be appreciated.
Chairman Christopher Keene asked, “What was the attitude of the owners when the warrant was served?” The detective responded that they were cooperative and realized that there was a problem and wanted to correct it, but because of the number of people in the community and their attitudes, especially the people in the parking lot, the owners were afraid to approach them.
A roll-call vote resulted in a five to one decision to revoke the beer license for T&B Lounge with only Chairman Keene voting in opposition. The revocation begins immediately.
In other business, a special events beer permit was issued for “Football at Ruby Falls” at 1720 S. Scenic Highway. The attraction will be allowed to sell beer on the terrace where large screen TVs will be set up for customers to view after tours of the caverns. The license will be valid on weekends in the month of September.
A consumer beer licenses was also given to St. Elmo Deli & Grill, 3931 St. Elmo Ave. The restaurant will be open for lunch only, seven days a week.
East Brainerd Golf Center, LLC, a driving range at 1073 Mackey Ave. that has been in operation for eight months was also given a permit to sell beer along with snacks and soft drinks.
Two convenience stores were awarded a carry-out beer license at the meeting. Board member Ed Townson commented that he had seen many improvements the new owners had made to the Shiva Food Mart at 303 Browns Ferry Road. That convenience store was granted a license to sell beer, as was the new owner of New Eastside Market at 2800 4th Ave.
The Wrecker Board convened to hear comments from any wrecker service that wished to speak. Shannon Yates from Doug Yates Towing represented the industry and asked the board about a meeting that had been held last week concerning the establishment of a rotation list for towing services that would be acceptable to the wrecker companies as well as for the city of Chattanooga. He told the wrecker board of two incidents that had happened in the last week involving UPS trucks, where the wrong wrecker companies had been given the jobs. He requested the board establish a plan so that his company could make up the calls it had lost because of these mistakes.
Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman told him nothing had been decided at the meeting and that it had only been informational. Officer Collins has another meeting set for next Tuesday to discuss the matter with all the parties involved, he said.