The beer licenses of two bars were suspended at the meeting of the Chattanooga Beer Board Thursday morning.
A bar check was made at 1 a.m. on Jan. 24 by the Chattanooga Police Department at La Bamba Mexican Restaurant, 5425 Highway 153. The location is zoned C-2 which requires restaurants and bars to close at 11 p.m. unless they obtain a special exemptions permit. Officer John Collins told the board that when he arrived beer was on tables and about five customers were still being served.
The restaurant has been in business 10 months. In the last two to three months, owner Andres Garcia said he had been trying to find the right person or agency to contact to apply for the exceptions permit. He came to the meeting with an armful of paperwork to document the various calls and emails he had made in the attempt. Officer Collins told the board that Bertha Lawrence, secretary of the beer board, had given Mr. Garcia a list of phone numbers with that information at the time he received his beer license.
Mr. Garcia said he had called those numbers and they all led back to Ms. Lawrence. He had also called or emailed various city officials, naming Ken Smith and Ken Fritz among others. He said he never received answers from some messages he left and replies came after two weeks to others. It was not until last week that he finally got in touch with Randy Ridge at the city’s zoning department who told him to apply through the planning agency.
In the meantime, Mr. Garcia said some of his customers wanted to stay later than 11 p.m. Every Thursday the bar has Karaoke night and the night of the bar check the business was open when police arrived. He said this was the first and only time he had stayed open later than the zoning permitted. Officer Collins said he had prior knowledge and “reasonable suspicion” about the business being open after hours on other nights and patrol officers had noticed cars in the parking lot but they had not gone inside.
Beer Board member Christopher Keene said that even though Mr. Garcia had made a good effort that he had violated the beer code and made a motion to suspend the license for three days starting next Thursday. The motion received a unanimous approval.
William Pritchett, owner of Paddy’s Bar & Grill at 5603 Hixson Pike, came to the meeting represented by Attorney Stan Lanzo. Another bar check made on March 10 by Officer Collins and other officials found two illegal poker machines and evidence of gambling in the form of gambling boards for various sporting events as well as $1,130. At the time, Mr. Pritchett was given a citation in lieu of arrest and the machines were seized.
This is the second violation for the same infraction that the bar was cited for in August, 2013. Officer Collins had received tips prior to the bar check from an undercover officer who saw the machines, and he said two separate complaints had come to him from the mayor’s office.
Attorney Lanzo asked no questions and presented no evidence, saying that there was a criminal charge associated with the incident that is still pending and he would not allow Mr. Pritchett to testify. This latest violation received the punishment of suspending the beer license for 10 days beginning next Thursday.
Davesh Patel is the owner of three gas stations. He has been in business since 2008 and has received no violations for selling beer or cigarettes during that time, and said he made daily checks to all of his locations. He applied for and received a permit for the newest one doing business as Super Mart at 5924 Brainerd Road.