An ownership change triggers the need for a new beer license from the city of Chattanooga. In the one and a half years it has been open, ownership continues to change at Exile off Main Street, the small bar at 1634 Rossville Ave. It was opened in the fall of 2019 by Brian Hennen and Martin Bohannon. Mr. Hennen’s share was sold to Ryan Rothermel in the summer of 2020 and ownership has since changed again. Mr. Bohannon has left and now Mr. Rothermel owns 87.5 percent of the business, while Rashelle McKee owns 12.5 percent.
At the Thursday morning meeting, a permit application was again brought to the Chattanooga Beer Board due to the most recent ownership change.
Approval for a new beer permit was delayed because the Secretary of State has not yet registered the new ownership. The application was rescheduled before the board for the next meeting on March 18 when the owners will have to provide proof that the business is in compliance with the state. Until then, Exile off Main Street can continue to sell beer under the old beer license.
George Matter, a resident of the community around the bar, spoke to the beer board on Thursday, saying that he represented the neighborhood in asking that a permit be denied. He said he has concerns about the ethics and morals of it operating in their community, claiming, among other things, that building permits had not been obtained and that the business had underpaid employees.
Beer Board member Brooke King responded that the board does not judge people’s morals, or if they take advantage of their employees, but it follows a cut and dried process, such as making sure that city inspections have been passed and that there is a landline. This is harassment, said Mr. Rothermel, while denying the claims. He said all employees are on the payroll and all taxes are paid, and that a permit had been obtained when an awning was built over the patio. “We’re completely legal,” he said.
Businesses that sell beer are required to have a landline phone before receiving a beer permit but recently there has been concern that new applicants are using personal cell phones instead. Chattanooga Police Officer John Collins said landlines give an address when 911 is called for emergencies. A cell phone only gives an approximate location and there are delays in tracking down the address. A new policy will require that an applicant will have to attach documentation that there is active service at an address, which will be verified with a phone call to the number from the regulatory bureau.
At the last meeting of the beer board, penalties for violations at several businesses gave them an option for either a suspended license or to pay a fine. An update was given for those fines. Ladell Careathers paid $50 for failing to get a special gathering permit for a party at an event hall and $25 for a second event at a different event hall. Brew and Cue chose to pay $1,000 fine rather than have the license suspended for seven days because the bar did not report a disorder to the police which sent a customer to the hospital. A $50 fine for Executive Director Elenora Woods for not getting a special gathering permit at the Piney Woods Family Resource Center is still outstanding. “We might have to send her a friendly reminder,” said Chairman of the Board Dan Mayfield.
The members of the beer board also function as the city’s wrecker board. On Thursday morning they discussed regulations of the wrecker industry, which business owners have claimed are not up to date. "It should be up to them to initiate changes on what they believe is needed," said board member Vince Butler. Two issues that have been raised are that some penalties are too harsh. The board has no choice of deciding on a lesser penalty for certain violations, and has expressed that a tiered level of punishment should be available. Another question is if the rates that wrecker companies in Chattanooga are allowed to charge are lower than what is allowed in other cities in Tennessee. More discussion will take place at the next meeting. The board can make recommendations which would be drafted as amendments to the ordinance and voted on by the Chattanooga City Council, said Assistant City Attorney Melinda Foster.