Coronavirus Making It Difficult On Underage Beer Checks

Thursday, August 6, 2020 - by Gail Perry

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it a challenge for those who sell alcohol to check IDs, Calandra Smith with the Hamilton County Coalition told the Beer Board at a meeting Thursday morning. The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) is extremely concerned about underage sales. The failure rates of checking for underage sales have been high, she said. Carryout and curbside sales of alcohol that have been prepaid and wearing of masks have contributed to the difficulty of checking ID’s.


Inspections since the pandemic began have been limited. In Hamilton County the TABC has conducted 35 checks at bars or retailers selling alcohol during this time and found 18 businesses selling to minors. The state of Tennessee has a 69 percent failure rate. Now when found the server’s license is being suspended. Businesses are taking advantage of the situation, she said.


During the same time, the Chattanooga Beer Board has not received any notifications about underage sales. That is because for the first offense, the TABC gives a $1,500 fine and handles it administratively. A follow up undercover check takes place after finding a violation and, if the establishment is found to be selling to a minor a second time, the Beer Board is notified of the prior violation. Beer Board member Vince Butler asked for a formal request for the state to share information with the board after the first time.


The new regulation for beer permit training was discussed and approved by the beer board on Thursday. It is now a requirement for anyone who sells or serves beer in Chattanooga to be professionally trained, not just through an online course. The new city ordinance was created by Keith Reisman and Melinda Foster, attorneys for the Chattanooga Beer Board, with approval from the board and is now being fine-tuned. The length of time that certification will be valid and how training programs will be certified by the city’s regulatory bureau are being determined.


Over the past couple of months, any approved beer permit was given contingent upon training being completed by at certain time. Because of difficulties caused by the coronavirus, Assistant City Attorney Foster recommended extending the training deadline for applicants that were approved prior to this meeting. The training deadline has been extended to Dec. 31, 2020. She noted that if the server or sales person has a TABC license, they will not be required to go through training again for beer sales.


Two new beer licenses were approved on Thursday. The Westin Chattanooga, 801 Pine St., was required to get a new permit due to a change in the lessor arrangement. The lessor of food and beverage service at the hotel since it opened three years ago will be terminated as of Sept. 1 at which time food and beverage will fall under the owners of the hotel, Byron, Ken and Ansley Blake DeFoor.


Board Member Christopher Keene told hotel general manager Tom Underwood that currently the multiple restaurants and bars in the hotel are all under one beer license, including the roof top bar Alchemy and the Dorato Cuisine and Spirits. If there is a violation to the beer code that causes a closure, he said it would apply to all bars and restaurants in the hotel. Some hotels get a different license for each outlet so they would be penalized independently, he told Mr. Underwood.


The Hatch Outfitters, 3227 Brainerd Road, was given a beer permit for the fly shop that sells gear and tackle and holds small events such as classes to teach tying flies. The license will give the business the ability to sell beer to customers while waiting for something to be assembled or to have a beer during a class, said owner Seth Fields.   

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