Beer Board Urged To Assess Beer License Suspensions Rather Than Monetary Fines

Thursday, September 20, 2018 - by Gail Perry
In the three and a half years since the Southside Social has been open at 1818 Chestnut St. the business has been cited to the Chattanooga Beer Board three times including this Thursday morning for allowing an employee to drink on the job. Last month at the Aug. 9 meeting the charge was for the same offense.

The violation being heard on Thursday took place on Aug. 17. Officer Jeffrey Buckner told the board he was at the jail when another officer brought in a waitress who had been arrested for DUI.
She was wearing a Southside Social T-shirt. She told the officers that she had worked that night and that she had been drinking there. The officers went to the bar, reviewed video footage and verified she had consumed a beer and a shot just after clocking out at 9:23 p.m. The video showed her leaving the bar at 9:53. The arrest was at 2 a.m. The assumption was that she went somewhere else and continued to drink after she left Southside Social.

The general manager of the bar, Joshua Long, said there is no dispute it happened and that the manager had signed a confession saying that he had allowed the employee to consume beer on the premises. This resulted in firing the manager of two and a half years as well as the waitress who was arrested.

Board member Dan Mayfield made a motion for a three-day suspension that would begin in two weeks. Board Member Christopher Keene suggested adding a monetary option. That monetary fine is capped at a maximum of $1,000 by law, said Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman. Mr. Mayfield agreed to amend his motion to allow the monetary option. The motion passed with only Board Member Brooke Bradley-King voting against. Chairman of the Board Ron Smith agreed to go along with the majority to not hold up the meeting.

During the portion of the meeting for public comment, Chattanooga Sergeant Justin Kilgore, assigned to DUI, noted the repeat offense by Southside Social. He told the board he has had to go to the homes where people had been killed by drunk drivers, and told them that “they should see the things we face.” He said that the board should be thinking more about families rather than giving an option of $1,000, which he said equates to just a couple of hours profits at a large establishment such as Southside Social and that three days should have been the minimum punishment.

Board Member Cynthia Coleman responded that the board had acted on what happened that night from 10 until 2 a.m. when the arrest occurred. The same thing had happened in August, said Sergeant Kilgore, but at that time, the restaurant said that they had lost the recording of what actually took place in the bar, so the case was dismissed.

Mr. Keene said taking a license would punish all employees, not just the one who committed the infraction and that the people who did the crime are gone, so he believed the restaurant took care of the problem. Mr. Smith commented that he does not like the monetary fines and feels that a three-day suspension is more consistent to all businesses. Ms. Thomas said three days equals more loss of money, and Ms. King said the board has the responsibility to send a message that if you break rules you will suffer. Mr. Mayfield said this discussion had given him food for thought for how to operate in the future about losing sales, and how punishments affect others.

Mr. Reisman, who has no vote, told the board that recently it has been giving monetary options that have not been done before, and that the $1,000 maximum is only a couple of hours to a large business. He said in some cases the fine option given has been $250 – “nearly nothing.” He suggested bringing in a mother who has lost a child to drunk driving to speak to the board so they could see the impact of what can happen. He said the board’s decisions should be consistent, and giving a license to some business owners who have provided no professional training in alcohol sales to their employees and not to others is an inconsistency. He said if the board wants that to be a requirement, the Chattanooga City Council needs to be consulted. He said Sergeant Kilgore’s comments should be considered in the future.

The Beer Board issued three beer licenses to local businesses Thursday morning. The Westin Hotel has developed an entertainment area adjacent to their hotel with bars and restaurants. Since the hotel opened, it has held “street parties” every Friday and Saturday night along 8th Street between Chestnut and Pine Streets. The street is blocked off with police officers stationed at both ends of the street. The weekend street parties are family friendly, but the businesses now would like to have another event on Wednesday nights between 5-9 p.m. with a beer garden and live music considered to be more adult friendly.

Citron et Sel, 212 W. 8th St., already had a consumer license but received the addition of a caterer’s license in order to participate in the street events where customers are allowed to carry beer onto the street in plastic cups. Beer is sold and IDs are checked inside the bars and restaurants. Attorney Reisman said that he must be notified five days before each of these events.

Riverside Wine and Spirits, 600 Manufacturer’s Road, is buying the former Riverside Beverage which has operated at the same location since 1996. New owner Phillip Turner is retaining all the long-time employees. The business currently sells beer, wine and spirits. The new license was approved for the new owner, effective next Friday, the day of the sale.

China House Hibachi & Wings failed to receive a license at the last beer board meeting because the owners and employees had no training or experience in selling alcohol. In the past two weeks, the couple who own the restaurant have been trained and they have arranged next week for a professional trainer to teach their employees the rules for selling beer. The owner told the board beer sales are expected to start Oct. 1 when training is complete. Owner Xi Lin was given a beer license at this meeting.

Four special events that will be taking place will be able to sell beer after being given permits at the beer board meeting. The 12th annual 3 Sister’s Festival is a celebration of bluegrass music of all kinds at Ross’s Landing. Hours will be from 5 to 11:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, and from 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6. The event that is funded by the Fletcher Bright family and celebrates what he has meant to the bluegrass world is free for the public. There will be beer and food along with the music and is a family and dog friendly event, said Carla Pritchard from Chattanooga Presents.

This will be the fifth year for the Heaven & Ale Oktoberfest that will take place at Cambridge Square,/ 9431 Bradmore Lane, on Oct.  6 from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. The rain date is Oct. 13. Ryan Hargrove said the square will be blocked off by police officers to make it safe for pedestrians. There will be food, music and a lot of vendors, he said. There will be a separate ID tent before getting in the beer line. Last year 3,000-4,000 people came.

Chickstock, the annual fundraiser for the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, will be at 5051 Gann Store Road at Greenway Farms on Sept. 22 from 11 a.m.-3.p.m. Taft Sibley told the board this event celebrates the watershed and is expected to have around 300-400 people attend.

Cory Howard received a special events beer permit for Arts for Cares/Chattanooga Cares. This will be held Sept. 22 from 7-10 p.m. Ballet Tennessee will perform and there will be a pop-up project. The organizers expect 150-200 to come, including 25 staff members.


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