Beer Board Members Want Assurances On Riverbend Security

Thursday, May 16, 2013 - by Gail Perry

City Beer Board members, considering the annual request for sanctioning beer sales at the Riverbend Festival, said Thursday they want assurances about this year's security plan.

Riverbend will be celebrating the 32nd year in Chattanooga from June 7-15. Members of the beer board were satisfied with the system Friends of the Festival uses for training servers, checking IDs and selling beer which has proven to be successful in the past. Police Officer John Collins answered board member Andre Harriman’s question about plans to stop over-serving.

Only two beers will be allowed per sale and a supervisor will be located at each of the16 locations selling beer. That person will watch the customers and advise to refuse a sale if it appears the person is intoxicated. But, “Nothing is fool-proof,” he said.

The board members were not satisfied with the lack of communication about security plans for the event which have been changed from previous years. When asked to explain how security is being handled, Karen Shostack representing the organizers, would only say safety and security is a priority and that it would be a collaboration of the CPD, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department and private security. Beyond that, she deferred questions to Chip Baker who was not at the meeting.

After much discussion attempting to evaluate the plan, Andre Harriman said the board could not base its decision on unanswered questions. Since Riverbend has become one of the top 10 music events in the country, the board wants to make sure security issues are the best possible for Chattanooga, and requested at the first possible date, for the details of the plan be sent to secretary Bertha Lawrence, for review by the commissioners.

Board member Phillip Sallee said “Since the number of Chattanooga police officers have been cut in half, that Mr. Baker should have come to explain and give answers to us.”

A vote was taken that yielded approval, only after Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman told the board that he had been somewhat involved with planning the security, and told them that Friends of the Festival have been working to make it a safe event along with the police department and both are satisfied with the plan. Because it is different this year is no cause for concern, he said. He added that officials do not want to go into infinite detail because of security reasons.

Vendors that will sell beer at the Bessie Smith Strut on June 10 will or have already participated in the training provided by Friends of the Festival. The seven locations selling beer along M.L. King Blvd. are being organized by Rose Martin from the Bessie Smith Cultural Center. Security for this evening will be the same as the plan used in 2012. The entire area will be fenced and gated to control entrance.

Licenses were given to sell beer at six locations from 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Two other vendors will come before the board at the next meeting on June 6. Beer will be available for purchase in outside tents set up at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E. M.L.King Blvd., Roshanna’s Hair & Beauty Bar, 320 E. M.L.King Blvd. and at Jackson Motor Service at 622 E. M.L.King Blvd. John Shoemaker, owner of both JJ’s Bohemia at 231 E. M.L.King Blvd. and Steelpan at 825 Houston St., along with Champy’s Fried Chicken, were also given a license to sell beer in tents. These businesses are already licensed for inside sales. It was noted that if it was bought inside, the drink must stay inside, and if bought outside, must stay out.

Travis McDonough, the mayor's chief of staff, told the City Council this week that he is confident that security issues have been worked out.

He said some off-duty police officers will be inside the venue, while over 100 more will be nearby.

Mr. McDonough said most Riverbend-related arrests in prior years have been "outside the ropes." 

On Memorial Day weekend, the Volkswagen / USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial Championship will come to the city. An expected 20,000 spectators are anticipated to view the race along the routes, and national television coverage will be by NBC Sports. There are multiple locations for the events associated with this race. The time trials will take place May 25 on Volkswagen Drive where a hospitality area will be set up for VIPs and sponsors. There will be no sales, but beer will be served. The race will be from 8 a.m.-9 a.m. after which lunch will be served.

On Monday the road race consists of multiple loops on a course that runs through downtown Chattanooga and the UTC campus, across the river and back, then up and down Lookout Mountain. The women’s race will begin at 9 a.m. lasting until around 11:45 a.m. A hand-cycling competition will be from noon-1 p.m. and the men’s road race will start at 1 p.m. The course is a total distance of 63 miles for the women and 100 for the men.

Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga received a license to serve beer at two venues downtown for watching the competition. A permit for 850 Market St. is from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sierra Nevada Beer which is a sponsor of the race, will be available from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. at the 928 Market St. location. Wrist bands will be issued which will allow tickets to be bought. Sales will be limited to two beers per person for each purchase.

 Security will be provided by multiple agencies including the Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain, Tn. police departments, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI, and Tennessee and Georgia Highway Patrol.

Gregory Vickery, executive director of North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, obtained approval for the sale of beer on May 18 for “Beer Over Dirt.” He told the board that it is a low-keyed fundraising event for this organization with food, wine and beer. Most of the servers, he said are employees of the individual breweries. Wrist bands will be limited to 750 which will take place from 3 p.m.-9 p.m. at Renaissance Park.

A beer code violation that took place on July 6, 2012, at Smoke 1 Tobacco, 2103 McCallie Ave. was addressed at the meeting of the beer board. A search warrant that day lead to the arrest of the owner of the business for having synthetic marijuana and synthetic drugs for sale. The business cannot be sold because a violation is pending. Robert Cameron and Sheikh Faye, owners, appeared before the board where their license was revoked.

Sale of that business is now permitted and the new owners came to the meeting to apply for a license in their names. Yasser Thabet and Ahmed Hasan told the board they have no working relationship with the previous owners and therefore were issued a permit for the sale of carry-out beer.

A surprise inspection Wednesday at DT’s Private Lounge, 3224 Wilcox Blvd. and DT’s Tobacco & Moore at 3222 Wilcox Blvd. found many violations of the beer code and lead the board to deny a license  for both businesses. Upon entering the lounge, said Officer Collins, police detected the smell of marijuana  coming from a back room. A search warrant resulted in finding narcotics and firearms and two convicted felons on the property.

In the tobacco store that has an adjoining door to the lounge, the search yielded drugs and prescription medications cut up for sale behind the cash register. There was also a violation of the trash ordinance at the back exterior of the building. Sergeant Mark Haskins testified that he saw 20-30 bottles of open liquor along with set-ups, more than three cases of beer and debris in trash cans indicating that the business had been serving liquor under a previous owner’s license. Both businesses were in conflict with the ordinance requirement that an establishment selling alcohol must be 500 feet from a daycare center, he said.

In her statement to the beer board, owner of the business Dana Tuggle said the evidence found was the result of a party she allowed her nephew, Michael Crawford, to have in the lounge. She said everything in the buildings had been there when she bought it a month ago, yet she  was unaware of the drugs and firearms being there. She told them that she knew nothing about the violations, and “no one  explained anything to me.” The fire official involved with the surprise inspection disputed this statement, saying she had been called by an employee at 1:30 when the officials arrived, and did show up at 5 p.m. The owner of the building also informed the police that the space is leased to her nephew.

Sergeant Haskins announced to the board members that the award of Civilian Employee of the Year has recently been given to secretary Bertha Lawrence by the Chattanooga Police Department.


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