Beer permits for five businesses were suspended at the meeting of the Chattanooga Beer / Wrecker Board Thursday morning. This was the result of compliance checks on the night of Feb. 22 conducted by the Chattanooga Police Department working jointly with the Hamilton County Coalition. The purpose of this organization is to create a safe and drug-free community.
The charge of selling beer to a minor was the cause of all the suspensions, which range from 10 to three days. Allied Quick Stop at 1301 N. Holtzclaw Ave., owned by Si Tae Cho, received the 10-day penalty. A clerk at the cash register never asked to see an ID for the 19-year-old female that police had sent in to buy beer. There is a large sign hanging over the cash register that says “We ID for every sale—don’t blame us for this stupid law. Call the beer board. (with the phone number clearly written).”
The clerk who was present at the meeting admitted making the sale and said she just forgot to check for age because the store was busy that night. She also told Police Officer John Collins that she was not an employee and that she only works there on the weekends. “I believe we had a communication barrier," said officer Collins. Mr. Cho told the board that he trained his employees only by telling them not to sell to minors.
The sign is a carryover from the previous proprietor. Mr. Cho has owned the business for the last five years. Board member Phillip Sallee asked if he was in agreement with what the sign says - to which Mr. Cho replied, “When people look up, it makes them smile.” Mr. Sallee told him that it gives the impression that you would like to sell beer to minors. He said, too, that it sets the attitude of the store. This is the second offense of the sale of beer to juveniles, and the sign is still up. “The sign is a total slap in the face to the beer board,” said Kevin McKenna, and suggested it be removed.
An original motion to suspend the beer license for five days was amended for a stiffer penalty of 10 days, which was passed unanimously. The suspension will begin next Thursday and will continue for 10 consecutive days.
Triple T’s Market at 2801 Dodson Ave. was facing the beer board the second time for the same offense of selling beer to a minor. Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman asked the owner what had been done to remedy the situation after the previous penalty in 2009. “We put a sign up,” answered Lee Andrew Ringer. He admitted that he made the sale to the 19-year-old without asking to see proof of age, saying he usually visually checks an ID, but that night was distracted. He told the board since the incident he bought a scanner which will serve as a reminder to check IDs for every sale. Board member Forestine Haynes told him, “That says to me that you just got caught this time” because there probably were many times he had been distracted.
Mr. Ringer told the board that minors often hang out around his business and that he and his brother often call the police without letting the customers know. Again, the motion for a three-day suspension was increased to five since the violation involved minors as well as a second offense. The board hopes that a five-day penalty will send the message to the juveniles who spend time in the area that beer will not be sold to them.
The clerk at Sandy’s Mini Mart at 2400 Glass St. admitted to not checking an ID when she sold beer to a minor sent into the store by police. Representing the owner, attorney Arvin Reingold told the board this business is primarily a neighborhood grocery store. The clerk responsible for the sale said she thought the shopper was a regular customer who came into the store all the time. “It looked just like her,” said the clerk, and also admitted she doesn’t always ID customers because she knows them. This time she just made a mistake. She added, “That’s only happened to me once.”
Attorney Reisman said, “This is a perfect example” of why there is the law to check IDs. Ms. Haynes asked the clerk if she understood that an ID needed to be checked every time and that the law doesn’t make room for whether you know someone or not.
This is both a city and state law, said Mr. Sallee, adding, “The law takes away the chance that you might make a mistake.” He also told her that he would not go so far as to say she had never done this before. “You probably just didn’t get caught before,” he said. “Because this shows blatant disregard of the individual to check the ID,” Mr. Sallee made the motion to suspend the license of this business for four days starting next Thursday, to which the board agreed.
Red Fuel and Food at 2601 Harrison Pike also received a four-day permit suspension beginning next Thursday. The clerk at this store intentionally by-passed the cash register function that checks for age. The owner of the business told the beer board that feature has now been immobilized so it cannot be circumvented and that the clerk is on an extended leave.
Citico Mini Mart, 1320 Citico Ave., has been owned and run by Alester Harris and his wife for 43 years. Mrs. Harris was at the cash register when the minor made the purchase. Mrs. Harris told the board that she regularly checks IDs for the sale of cigarettes and beer. The drink that was bought this time was a Sparks. Mrs. Harris was unaware at the time that it was an alcoholic energy drink. Her husband does ordering, pricing and stocking for the store and said they sell very few of these. This beverage was also unknown by any of the beer board members and was googled by Attorney Resiman who confirmed it is a malt product and is sold by Carter Distributing. There was general agreement that it was understandable how the mistake happened. Because of the design of the can and the fact that it leaves a colorful stain once it has been consumed, it appears that the target for marketing this product is juveniles .With the advice for Ms. Harris to know the products in the store, the business received a three-day suspension of the permit to begin next Thursday.
CVS Pharmacy at 3800 Tennessee Ave. applied for and received a license to sell carry-out beer. Beverly Wright and Sarah Love also were granted a permit to sell beer for their catering business “On the List Catering.” Ms. Wright said the business serves special events. Four bartenders who work for the business part time check the IDs of all people at the affairs and issue wrist bands to indicate age. The vote was unanimous to approve the application.
Mosteller’s Towing #3 at 1850 Polymer Dr. is expanding its business to an additional location. A license was issued for this business which will allow the company to appear another time on the city’s rotation list for wrecker service.
RRT, with three trucks, is an established business that is going into the towing business and joining the police rotation list. This application was also approved.
Attorney Reisman updated the beer board members on a new law. At the Feb. 21 meeting of the beer board, a 10-day suspension was issued to Skyzoo on Lee Highway. The board authorized the attorney to notify the ABC board of the punishment. Under the new law of shared information, the ABC board suspended the sale of liquor for the same 10 days. It was requested that in the future, the beer board allow two weeks from issuing the fine before implementing it in order for the ABC board and the city beer board to coordinate their suspensions.