Citron et Sel, 212 W. 8th St., a restaurant in the part of town known as West Village, got its beer license on April 19, 2018, and a catering beer permit five months later. In the short time it has been open, the business has had three violations for selling alcohol to a minor. All these infractions of serving underage customers were found by the TABC, which regulates the sale of wine and spirits. during compliance checks. According to Tennessee state law, the TABC notifies the Chattanooga Beer Board after a second violation and a hearing takes place before the city beer board.
The law requires that the beer board mirror the penalty given by the TABC, including having any suspension run concurrently with the one imposed by the state agency.
On Aug. 22, the latest incident of selling alcohol to a minor took place, discovered by the TABC. Representatives from the business told the board that remedial changes have been implemented to correct the problem. The past manager and the severs who were involved were all fired. The new general manager said he was making changes to “the culture” of the restaurant. Self-compliance checks will be made and daily reminders about alcohol sales will be given. IDs will be scanned to verify age, although Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman warned that counterfeit cards can slip through the scanner
After the third offense that was witnessed by the TABC agents on Aug. 22, the Beer Board was notified. That incident garnered a suspension of the liquor license for 28 days. Including the other two violations, the restaurant has had to pay $6,500 in fines. The Chattanooga Beer Board was constrained to match the suspension because of the state law, but it was believed that the punishment was not sufficient for the infraction. This business will not be allowed to sell beer, spirits or wine from Nov. 21 through Dec. 18.
An attorney representing the business said it would be closed during this time for a remodel. Board member Christopher Keene responded that being closed then makes it appear as a remodel and not closed due to the violations. He also told those representing the restaurant “that what is now being done is not much to brag about. He said, "You should have woken up before. It was a long time to stay asleep” before taking action to correct he issues knowing there have been three violations in one year.
Board member Trevor Atchley said that the high price of penalties, plus the 28-day suspension, is a good example that training up-front would have been a better business decision. The beer code as it is written does not allow the board to require professional training, but that might change. Attorney Reisman is proposing a number of changes to the beer ordinance that the board has had issues with in the past. It is felt by most of the board that a lack of training employees is the reason for many violations that come before them, yet as it currently is, training cannot be required. The most significant change being proposed is to require professional training in alcohol sales. Online training for a TABC server’s permit is minimal - $20 for a permit that is good for five years, plus $11 for the online course. In discussions, it was felt that would not be a burden for small business or large ones with many employees. Whatever the cost, Mr. Keene said that anything to deter selling to minors is a protection and a good thing if it could prevent even one wreck and keep the streets safe.
That change, along with several others, was approved by the board members unanimously on Thursday. They will be presented to the Chattanooga City Council to review and implement.
Rajeshkumar Chaudhari was approved for a carry-out beer license for ABC Tobacco Mart, 3948 Brainerd Road, Suite 2, formerly AABC Party Store. Mr. Chaudhari has four other beer permits and also owns a liquor store, so is familiar with the Chattanooga Beer Code, he told the board.
Dawn Hjelseth, director of development for Greenspaces, 326 Main St., applied for and was given a special events beer permit for the Main x 24 Chili Cookoff on Dec. 7. The event will take place from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. that day. This is the 11th year for this event. Though numbers have not been officially tracked, she told the board that around 2,000 people usually participate in the street fair.
The beer board meetings in January will be held on Jan. 12 and Jan. 23.
This meeting will be the last for attorney Keith Reisman, who has overseen the beer board many years. “You have been a great asset to the city and a great shepherd and good guide,” said Dan Mayfield, vice chairman of the board. Chairman Ron Smith said attorney Reisman has been his “security blanket” while serving on the board. Assistant City Attorney Melinda Foster will replace attorney Reisman on the beer board in the future.