The Chattanooga Beer Board heard two violations to the city’s beer code at the meeting Thursday morning. Long Branch, 4904 Rossville Blvd., was cited to the board for offenses involving gambling and denying police to inspect the premises. On Oct. 9 during a bar check Chattanooga Police Officer John Collins along with units from narcotics and vice went to Long Branch around 3 a.m. and found gambling paraphernalia in plain view before asking the bartender who was in charge, for consent to search.
She refused to sign a consent form causing the officers to get a search warrant before proceeding.
During the search they found “pull tabs” and “tip boards,” both associated with gambling, and $2,000 in cash. Pills were found in an unlabeled bottle behind the bar and a small amount of cocaine, along with .7 grams of meth in the bartender’s purse for which she was arrested.
Attorney Brent James, representing owner Michael Fletcher, suggested the bartender did not give permission to search because of the meth in her purse. Mr. Fletcher said he had not instructed anyone to deny a search, and now all employees have been instructed to cooperate with police. That employee was fired after appearing in court for the charges. He was aware of the gambling equipment and cash, said Mr. Fletcher. It had been allowed to help raise money for a customer with cancer, not to profit the bar.
A motion to suspend the bar’s beer license for two days with the option of paying a $250 monetary fine was passed. If chosen, suspension of the license will begin on Dec. 12.
During a bar check at Bud’s Sports Bar, 5751 Brainerd Road, made by Chattanooga Police and the TABC on Oct. 23, three females sitting at a table were asked for IDs. Two of them responded they were off-duty employees. One was drinking water and two other glasses on the table were alcoholic beverages. Employees are at no time allowed to drink alcohol at the place where they work according to the beer code. That night, only one of the women denied that they were drinking alcohol.
At the beer board hearing, Krista Holland, the employee accused of drinking at Bud’s that night, told the board, under oath, that she had been drinking a Coke. The general manager said she had only received a verbal warning but nothing had been put in her employee file regarding the incident. Officer Collins told the board that night there had been no objection to the accusation of drinking alcohol, Ms. Holland only said she was off duty. A reasonable inference was made as an admission since she did not deny, leaving some ambiguity, said Board Member Trevor Atchley, but she testified under oath, he said.
Chairman of the Board Ron Smith and Board Member Cynthia Coleman both said that with his experience, they trusted Officer Collins’ opinion. Member Vince Butler said his response to the questions asked of Ms. Holland would have been “I’m not drinking,” as opposed to her answer “I’m off of work now.”
A motion to issue a three-day suspension from Dec. 19-22, with the option of a $500 fine passed with only Trevor Atchley voting against.
The hearing scheduled for two violations at Southside Social, 1818 Chestnut St., was moved to the next Beer Board meeting. John Wise, owner of the bar, asked for the postponement because his lawyer was unable to be present Thursday morning. The charges of over-serving and allowing an employee to drink on the premise will be heard at the meeting on Dec. 19.
Songbirds, 35 Station St. at the Chattanooga Choo Choo complex, currently has a consumer beer license. The restaurant/bar was approved at the Thursday Beer Board meeting for an additional catering beer permit. The manager told the board that the business does many fundraisers and non-profit events that fill the schedule at the present location. The catering permit will allow participation at events outside of the venue.
Discussion concerning the operations of wrecker companies in Chattanooga took place at the Thursday morning meeting of the Chattanooga Wrecker Board.
Timothy Deere, whose son was parked by Champy’s on Main Street, had his car towed on Dec. 18, 2016. Since that time, he said he has been attempting to notify city officials that wrecker companies in Chattanooga are overcharging for non-consensual tows and that the signage regarding parking / towing is not compliant with city codes. He has notified multiple agencies and finally was told by Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman that his complaint should be heard in the discussion portion of a Wrecker Board meeting. The Chattanooga Beer Board also functions as the Wrecker Board.
The city’s ordinance, he said, states that a maximum towing charge of $125 is all inclusive. Wrecker companies are allowed to charge for storage at $15 per day. He said he had retrieved his car within hours of the tow by Mosteller’s Wrecker Company that occurred around midnight, but had been charged $210 resulting in an overcharge of $85.
He said signs are not always clearly visible to a parked car and that they specify no pick-up address or method of payment. Paperwork he received from Mosteller’s when he picked up his car had no information about how to appeal or no phone number for the Wrecker Board.
A representative from Yates Towing and Recovery told the board that all tows are not equal, some require more work to move the vehicle, accounting for charges in addition to the all-inclusive $125 specified in the city code.
They are clearly overcharging according to the ordinance, but if people cannot bring the complaint to the Wrecker Board, then we have a law that we cannot enforce, said Board Member Trevor Atchley. He asked how wrecker companies could reconcile the “all inclusive” cost provision. The prices need to go up, responded the representative from the wrecker companies.
Vince Butler said that moving forward, he wants to add a method to appeal non-consensual tows, however there was confusion concerning if the board regulates all towing or only those that are “rotation calls” which are assigned by the city’s dispatcher. Melinda Foster, assistant city attorney who is replacing Keith Reisman who is retiring, told the board that she is aware of the complaint but she could not give an answer on the spot.