Violations of the Chattanooga Beer Code were heard relating to four businesses Thursday morning. Terra Nostra Tapas & Wine, 105 Frazier Ave. was cited to the beer board because during a compliance check performed by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), an underage customer was served a beer despite the server asking for and checking the buyer’s ID. He said he did not read the right date.
This was the second offense discovered by the TABC in a two-year period so notification of the offense was also sent to the Chattanooga Beer Board.
The license to sell wine and liquor was suspended from Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 by TABC resulting from that violation. The owner of Terra Nostra, Efren Ormaza, told the board he closed the restaurant those three days, thereby selling no beer in addition to selling no alcohol. The beer board decided to confirm the violation but added no additional penalty since the restaurant had voluntarily stopped serving beer for three days.
Old Folks, 5401 Wilbanks Road, was described by owner David Parker as a small place with the capacity of just 32. Customers are “mostly retired and just sit around and kill time,” he said. On the afternoon of Jan. 12, Chattanooga Police Officer John Collins responded to a citizen complaint about the bar at 1:15 in the afternoon. He found a man playing a table-top, video poker machine that was quickly unplugged when police entered. During the bar check other gambling devices were found in the form of tip cards for the Super Bowl and $1,100 in cash. Six bottles of liquor were also found behind the bar, but the business does not have a TABC license. Police were told that the bottles belonged to individual customers. Police were also told that the pay for use poker machine pays out five cents for every point earned.
A beer license allows customers to bring your own bottles, but employees can have nothing to do with the liquor. It must be taken when the customer leaves or disposed of. Mr. Parker said he thought that keeping it for customers was OK because open containers are not allowed in cars. He claimed that advice had come from police officers during a previous bar check. He also told the board that the poker machine had a “for amusement only” sign and said it did not have a pay-out. He said, “It’s just something to sit around and piddle with.” “Why was the machine unplugged?” asked City Attorney Wade Hinton. “I don’t know,” answered Mr. Parker.
Because he was confused about keeping liquor for customers, and said under oath that poker machine did not pay out, in addition to tip boards being “a tradition” in bars
bars around the time of the Super Bowl, and not considered to be “heavy gambling,” Board Member Christopher Keene made the motion, which failed to pass, to give the business a letter of reprimand. Feeling that the ownership was aware of the violations and that they tried to disguise what they were doing, the board settled on giving a $250 fine.
Two convenience stores, Mapco Express #3660, 6120 Hwy. 58 and BP/Circle K # 3577, 6239 Highway 58, were both given three-day suspensions of their beer licenses because they sold beer to undercover agents. Out of 15 compliance checks done by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office on the night of Jan. 4, three violations were discovered.
Chattanooga Cigar Club, 1518 Market St., was approved for a new consumer beer license. The owner, Curtis Greene, told the board that despite the name “club,” the business will have the atmosphere of a lounge. The dress code will be business casual and entertainment will be one or two piece bands. They will sell only hand-rolled cigars and cigarettes will not be allowed. Hours are from 3 p.m. until midnight on Tuesday through Thursday and from 3 p.m. until 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
The Rice Boxx, 3600 Hixson Pike, was required to get a new beer permit because of an ownership change. The restaurant has been bought by Meifang Zheng and it is being run as a family business, with her grandchildren helping. The restaurant was unanimously approved for a beer permit.