Three convenience stores and a bar were reprimanded and penalized by the Chattanooga Beer/Wrecker Board at a Thursday morning meeting.
The beer license for Jimmy D’s Sports Bar and Grill, 3901 Rossville Blvd., was suspended for failure to report a barroom brawl to the Chattanooga Police Department. On the night of Feb. 19, police were notified of the incident by a customer of the bar. The beer code specifies any disturbance should be reported by telephone by an employee of the business.
Police sent to the bar the following morning interviewed witnesses and recorded verbal and written statements about what happened. However, they were unwilling to testify at the hearing. The board was told that the bartender was afraid to give evidence at the meeting, telling Police Officer John Collins that “you don’t testify against Jimmy D’s.” Robert Bland, the man injured in the fight, was not available because he left town, but a couple days after the incident he had allowed police to photograph his injuries and provided a written statement.
Officer Collins told the board the police department has not received recent complaints about this bar because it’s obvious that they “take care of their own problems.” Due to the lack of cooperation from the witnesses, the recorded testimony was used to present the case to the beer board members. This indicated that Mr. Bland had entered the establishment around 9 p.m. with a friend. Three other customers were there when the two arrived. At approximately 10 p.m. a fight broke out that was started by Mr. Bland who was extremely intoxicated, it was said.
The police report and photos showed that Mr. Bland had been stomped by the customers and hit with what was referred to as the “attitude stick” by the bartender. His injuries resulted in lacerations and bruises on his face, neck, back, legs and arms amid multiple tattoos. According to paramedics and EMS that arrived with the ambulance, the beatings were severe enough to have caused permanent hearing loss.
Bystanders the night of the fight said they witnessed Bland fighting with two other bar patrons and saw him being beaten with a long stick and being dragged outside. James Farlow, owner of Jimmy D’s, told the board he could not afford security and thought the bartenders needed something for protection so he provided them with an “attitude stick.” This is a large broomstick wrapped in black duct tape. He said he has taught employees to hit the bar with the stick to get attention if there is a disturbance. This is intended as a warning before police are called. He had no explanation for why the bartender failed to call in a report once the fight started.
A five-day suspension March 14-18 was issued for the failure to notify police of the fight and what Board Chairman James Hobbs called other serious problems at the establishment including no security with only one employee present, employees drinking, and using a long stick as a weapon directed at customers.
In compliance checks done jointly with the Chattanooga Police Department, the Hamilton County Coalition and ABC Board, violations were found at several convenience stores. Two minors working undercover for the police department, both 18, were able to buy beer at each of these businesses.
Natwarbhai Patel, owner of Discount Food Mart at 4300 Norcross Road, told the board his wife was preoccupied at the time of the check on Feb. 9, and didn’t ask to see an ID. He also told them it was routine that they hit a “bypass” button for age verification if the customer was a regular or looked old enough. He was told by the board to post a sign saying “we check IDs” and to check them for every sale. As punishment for failure to do this, the beer license of this store was suspended three days beginning March 14.
Beer was also sold to a minor Feb. 9, at Highland Plaza Exxon at 4004 Hixson Pike. Owner James Forester told the board that he encourages all employees to check IDs. The clerk who allowed the sale, however, did not ask the underage customer to show one. Mr. Forester was reminded that he is responsible for his employees and it was suggested that he review security films and do his own compliance checks to verify his employees are conforming to the law. Vice Chairman Phillip Sallee added that he should do more than encourage his employees, he should tell them it is mandatory to check for legal age.
The third business penalized by the board was Kanku’s #1 Food Mart, 101 Glenwood Dr. A clerk working the cash register on the night of Feb. 9 sold beer to the undercover agent without asking to see identification. A representative of the business attempted to defend this action by telling the board the clerk has been an employee for 10 years and usually works the morning shift cooking chicken, occasionally mans the cash register and just made a mistake.
The Hamilton County Coalition that works to reduce negative behaviors in youth by providing intervention and prevention measures notified the Glenwood Neighborhood Association that this issue would come before the beer board on Thursday, which prompted six block leaders to come to the meeting. Dr. Everlena Holmes, coordinator of the association, said the group attempts to partner with the businesses in their neighborhood to encourage them to be good stewards for their community. She said Kanku’s had let them down and she hopes this punishment will serve as a reminder for other businesses to refrain from selling alcohol to minors.
In the discussion that followed, it became apparent that littering and noise were also problems the neighborhood has encountered involving this business. The neighborhood association has taken care of the litter from the store by having a member of their group clean up debris from the area surrounding Kanku’s. The board explained that littering is the responsibility of the business that posses a beer license and recommended getting police involved in the matter. Addressing the association members, Chairman Hobbs said they are doing a service to the community and that it is appreciated. Ron Smith commended them as being citizens that work together to solve problems.
With the strong suggestion that a manager be present at all times and training be provided to all employees, a unanimous vote to suspend the beer license at this Kanku’s location was issued for March 14-16.
Mr. Hobbs told those applying for a beer license that violations were handled at the first of the meeting to demonstrate what happens when the beer code is violated. Licenses were issued for two businesses. Mapco Mart #3660, located at 6120 Highway 58 that has recently been annexed into the Chattanooga city limits, and Shiva Food Mart #2 at 7018 Shallowford Road because of an ownership change, were both approved for the sale of carry-out beer.