Two establishments were before the beer board Thursday for violations. including Exile Off Main, owned by the same investors as the new restaurant Bless Yer Heart that was just approved for a beer license. Exile off Main has been opened for two years, but Sergeant Jason Wood told the board that the police have received 27 noise complaints beginning this past summer. There is a small indoor space with just four chairs and the main business is on a patio with an open area surrounding it.
The complaints have been coming from neighbors, most who live in condominiums next door. They are residential, however, many of the units are used for short term rentals. One owner told the board that many people visiting Chattanooga are excited to stay in an area that is within walking distance to many bars and restaurants, but some of her customers have left after one night because there was too much noise. Several full-time residents from the homeowner’s association spoke at the meeting and told the board that they do not have an interest in closing down the business, but they just need to be able to sleep without their windows rattling until 3 in the morning. The bar is open from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. weekdays and until 2:30 on weekends.
Attorney Brent James, representing the bar, told the board that there has been no other type of complaints such as fights and rowdy behavior; they have only been about noise. Owner Freddie Schwenk has attempted some noise modifications, he said, such as erecting plexiglass panels covered with moving blankets to muffle the noise, but the police continue to get calls. One suggestion offered is to direct the speakers at a different angle. Mr. Schwenk said he continues to monitor the sound twice each night with a decibel meter. His data shows that the decibel limit is rarely exceeded, only when some DJs might get “excited” and turn up the volume.
Two previous violations have already been sent to city court for the bar, but were dismissed because the police officer who measured the noise level had not been trained how to do it. City Attorney Phil Noblett told the beer board that they needed to consider if the bar is within the special downtown amplified music district established by the city council several years ago. That allows louder music during the evening hours. But residential zones have changed on the Southside since then and he said another ordinance has been created to deal with residential areas that are outside the amplified district.
The problem is that neither the bar owner or the city officials know what district this bar is in. Additionally, said Mr. Noblett, people need to take responsibility and know about the area where they are moving into. The closer they are to entertainment areas, they have to realize there will be music and that businesses stay open until 3 in the morning.
A decision for penalizing the bar has been put off until the Jan. 4 meeting to gather more information including identifying what noise district it is in and data about the number of police calls that have been received about the bar.
A second bar was cited to the board meeting for the violation of operating a disorderly place. A fight between two customers broke out in the parking lot of Acapulco Bar, 2925 Rossville Blvd., last Friday night. The licensed security guard at the business was unable to stop the fight and called police from his cell phone. The violation against the bar was that the call was not made from a landline. That is required by the Chattanooga beer code because it immediately identifies where the call is coming from.
Another complaint for the bar was for possibly overserving when a customer was stopped for DUI and said he had been at the bar earlier. Board member Owen Seaton said the location has not had a violation since 2017 and is not known as a nuisance property. Because this is only an issue about failure to call police on a landline, he did not feel that a suspension of the license was warranted. The board agreed so the bar will receive a letter of reprimand.