The penalty that the Chattanooga Beer Board could give a local promoter was minimal compared to the violation. A man who has legally changed his name to “Fresh” is the lessee of the Celebrities ENT event hall at 3649 Brainerd Road. He was also the promoter who organized a party on the night of Feb. 10 that was closed down by the Chattanooga Police Department at 1:30 a.m. after responding to a call for “shots fired.” On the way to the location, that was changed to “a person shot,” and again to “two people shot.”
When police arrived, they found evidence of alcohol use both inside and out, inadequate security two shooting victims on the ground and 100 different shell casings spread throughout the parking lot.
Soon afterward, a third person that had been at the event, appeared at a local hospital with a gunshot wound. Fresh was not present when police got there, and was not implicated in the shootings. At this time, no one has been charged.
It took multiple attempts to contact Fresh, Chattanooga Police Officer John Collins told the board. The landlord for the property he rents has also been attempting to find him, even coming to the beer board meeting in hopes of locating him. Officer Collins did eventually get in contact with him and the promoter was cited to the beer board hearing on Thursday by phone, certified letter and in person yet he failed to show up at the meeting. Before the night of the violation he had met with officials from the Beer Board and was told that the building was too close to a church and a day care to qualify for a permanent beer permit. He has a business license but no special event beer license and no special gathering permit from the city.
The need for a special gathering permit is triggered by four things: If there is an admission charge, if the gathering goes on past midnight, if the building has a capacity over 50 and if there is alcohol present. All four applied to this event, making it a special gathering permit violation. The only thing the beer board was authorized to do was give him a “strike,” said Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman. He did not have a permit, so the board could not suspend it. The board issued a strike on Fresh as a promoter and another as the lessee of the property. If there is a second strike during the next 12 months against him as both promoter and lessee, he will not be able to hold another event.
“Three people were shot, we need to do more than give him a strike,” said Board Member Christopher Keene. Officer Collins said if he does reapply for a permit it would likely be denied anyway.
The board gave one special event beer permit to Michael Lewis on behalf of the Breakfast Rotary Club for Brew Skies Beer & Food Festival. This is the third year for the fundraiser that will benefit international work in Haiti. It will be held at the Choo Choo Gardens, 1400 Market St., on April 13 from 2-6 p.m.
London Calling, 715 Cherry Street, has a consumer beer permit. In order for the business to participate in street parties sponsored by River City Company and Sound Corp. it also needed to have a caterer’s beer permit so the beverage can be taken outside. The caterer permit was approved.
One carry-out beer permit was given at the meeting for a convenience store. Irfan Joseph owns three other convenience stores for which he already has a license to sell beer. The new location, Joseph Food Mart #3 is at 3407 Amnicola Highway. Mr. Joseph has had no violations at the other stores he owns and was given a license for the newest business.
The beer board members functioning as the Chattanooga Wrecker Board heard one violation on Thursday. Officer Collins said he had noticed the grill from a Jeep Cherokee along the road near the police center on Amnicola Highway, and in researching recent accidents there, found that on March 6 S&H Towing, 6221 Highway 58 had cleaned up a wreck at that site. A car grille had inadvertently been left along the shoulder of the road. When called, S&H responded immediately said Officer Collins. Concluding that it was just missed in the confusion and traffic, owner of the business Les Cantrell apologized for the mistake. A letter of reprimand was put in the company’s file about the incident.
Rick Rutherford, on behalf of the 32 wrecker and towing companies in the six surrounding districts, proposed a rate increase to the board. The last increase of city rates was in 2003 and he said the cost of doing business has increased since then. The rates in Chattanooga are lower than most other areas in Tennessee, he said. Currently a daytime tow is $125 and nighttime tow is $135. The Hamilton County rates are $185 and $195 respectively. Mr. Rutherford approached the Wrecker Board hoping to get a recommendation for the increase, which he will present to the Chattanooga City Council.
On the recommendation of attorney Reisman, the proposal will be given to each member to review before more discussions of the increase at the April 18 meeting. At that time, the board could pass a resolution in support of the increase.