Surprise Party At Jay's Bar Winds Up Costing 3-Day Beer License Suspension

Thursday, November 2, 2017 - by Gail Perry

A "surprise appreciation party" for the owner of Jay’s, 1914 Wilder St., ended up causing big problems for Johna Douglas. Her bar / restaurant was closed for a week prior to and after Sept. 28. When she was returning from a vacation with her husband, they stopped at a restaurant and he received a call about a problem at the bar. The couple went to Jay’s where Ms. Douglas’ customers were having a surprise party for her. Her husband was in on the surprise along with her sister-in-law. The problem occurred because the people giving the party did not know all the rules that have to be followed when operating a bar. Both Mr. Douglas and the sister-in-law had keys for emergency situations, but are not involved with running the business.

That night, Chattanooga Police patrol officers stopped by Jay’s to do a compliance check. They discovered an estimated 70-80 people inside the building that has an official occupancy of 49. A clicker was found later, however it had not been used that night. Ms. Douglas was cited to the Beer Board for a violation of overcrowding.

She also had a drink at the party after having had one with dinner. Because an employee is prohibited from drinking alcohol at the place where they work, Ms. Douglas was also in violation of that requirement of the beer code.

She had been cited in the past for both of those violations, so was well aware of the consequences, said Chattanooga Police Officer John Collins, but the crowd that night was not disruptive. It was mainly about a life safety issue, he said.

Beer Board member Christopher Keene said, "We’re making a big deal out of this when it was just a surprise party," before he made the motion to give a three-day suspension that would fall on two days of the week that the bar is closed. That motion failed, in a four to three vote. The motion to issue a three-day suspension of the beer license for Nov. 9, 10, and 11 passed.

Ms. K’s Express Mart is opening at 1207 Dodds Ave, in the location where there are none or few places to purchase food. Keisha Barnes said her new store will be a convenience store in front and will have a short order restaurant in the back. It will be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. seven days a week. She wants to provide services that are lacking in that community, she said. She and all employees will take the ABC class that educates about selling and serving alcohol. The board thanked her for opening a business in that area and approved giving Ms. Barnes both a consumer and a carry-out beer permit.

A consumer beer license was also given to Amanda Triplett for her new bar Trip’s Tavern, 4762 Highway 58, Suite #116. This bar will serve beer only and no food except popcorn, Ms. Triplett told the board. She assured them that all employees will be trained in ABC classes and that she would "Uber" customers home if they appeared to be intoxicated. The vote was unanimous to give a beer license for Trip’s Tavern.

Main x 24, the block party along Main Street, will take place this year on Dec. 2. Dawn Hielseth, the director of development at Greenspaces, was given a special events beer permit that day for the World’s Heavyweight Chili Championship Main x 24 from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. This is the ninth year this event has been held in the parking lot of Greenspaces. Alcohol service will be handled by Victoria Love Events.

Christine Buhr, who lives next door to Bon Temps, 1306 S. Willow St., came to the board meeting asking for help. The building formerly housed the Willow Street Inn, but in January became Bon Temps. She said it appears that the bar is open during the week and is being rented out as an event hall on many weekends. On those nights, she said it is routine for people leaving that business to come into her yard with plastic cups while leaving litter and urinating on her shrubbery. Furthermore, the business, which is restricted to close at 11-12 p.m., routinely stays open to 3 a.m. or later, she said. Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman assured her that he will work with the police department and review zoning restrictions, on her behalf.

At the next meeting on Nov. 16, the beer board will consider making changes to policies and procedures for regular meetings. Under discussion will be items such as the order of business during meetings by scheduling temporary permits at the beginning and requiring that a business owner or lawyer representing the owner be the one to come to a meeting for violations or applications. There may also be a time limit put on "long winded" attorneys, and a distinct order of questions from each board member. There will also be a procedure put in place that a business must have all inspections including fire, health and building, approved prior to being put on the meeting agenda for a license application.

The beer board functioning as the wrecker board approved a license for Nicholas Gross for his business First Response Towing and Recovery, 1619 Dodds Ave. Mr. Gross has been driving a tow truck since he was 16, he told the board, and now is taking over his father’s business.

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