Chattanooga event halls, which police said were largely unregulated and spawned a spate of violent activity, were silent over the weekend as the city's new Special Gathering Permit went into effect.
Lacie Stone of the mayor's office said, "This past weekend, rules surrounding Mayor Andy Berke’s new Special Gathering Permit went into effect, dramatically reducing the amount of previously unregulated event halls operating throughout the city."
She said no entity applied for a Special Gathering Permit for Friday or Saturday night of this past weekend.
After conducting a sweep of event halls on Friday night, Chattanooga Police Department officers "found no activity at event halls in violation of the ordinance," she said.
Late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, one event hall (Da Building) was found to be operating after midnight without a permit. Police shut down the Da Building, and the owner was given notice of the violation.
Mayor Berke said, “This past weekend shows that the new Special Gathering Permit works. In the past, event halls have operated without accountability, and we have repeatedly witnessed violence at their events. We are off to a good start, taking a step towards ensuring the safety of those who attend or live near an event hall, as well as the city as a whole.”
In August, Mayor Berke proposed legislation designed to address public safety at event halls throughout Chattanooga. His office said, "For years, event halls had been effectively unregulated and several had history of violent activity."
Taking into account implementation and the five-day waiting period for approval of the permits, this past weekend was the first official weekend for which event halls could apply.
Police Chief Bobby Dodd said, “Through these permits, we are now able to do the enforcement necessary to address this public safety issue. When we found an event hall in violation at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, with alcohol present, we had the tools in place to shut it down before a problem could occur.”
The Special Gathering Permit ordinance was presented to the City Council and approved on Sept. 3. The new ordinance repurposed an existing ordinance, section 25-46, et seq., that had not been applied to event halls in the past. Now, any person or entity who is the owner or operator of an event hall or who organizes an event is responsible for obtaining a Special Gathering Permit if the event continues past midnight, charges a fee of any kind, has alcohol present on the premises, and is attended by 50 or more people or is held at a facility with an occupancy capacity of 50 or more.
Owners and operators of event halls, as well as the individual event organizers, are jointly responsible for violations at an event. Once there are two violations of the ordinance at a particular event hall within a one-year period, the site is no longer eligible for a Special Gathering Permit.