New Shady Corner's Bar Can Open By Mosque, But Without Beer

  • Friday, April 7, 2023
  • Gail Perry

The Chattanooga Beer Board on Thursday denied a beer permit for a new business, something that is seldom done. The decision was in respect to the Islamic Center, 1410 Cemetery Ave. which has been in the same building 39 years. As time passed, a Baptist church closed that was located between an abandoned building that has recently been remodeled and the Mosque.  The Islamic Center acquired that church property. The former church building is six feet away from the remodeled bar. The mosque also owns a drug and alcohol recovery center that is behind their two buildings that face Cemetery Avenue.  

The Chattanooga beer code specifies that there must be a distance of 500 feet from the doors of a church and a business that sells beer. The distance from the mosque to the remodeled bar has been estimated at 150-200 feet which, would disqualify if from selling alcohol according to the beer code. However, in 2020, the owner of the abandoned building had the property rezoned to Urban General Commercial (UGC), which allows beer sales and is exempt from the beer code requirement to be 500 feet from a church. 

In December 2021, James Heeley, who also owns the bar Unknown Caller at 715 Cherry St.,  signed a lease for the empty, condemned building and began making renovations. It is now complete and ready to open as the new bar Shady’s Corner at 1402 Cemetery Ave. The location has already received a TABC license from the state to sell liquor and wine. But members of the mosque filled the room at the beer board meeting in opposition to allowing a bar to operate just six feet away from their places of worship.

The original application labeled the business as a deli with no mention of selling alcohol. It is now being described as a bar in a deli. The capacity is 105 people, which includes space indoors and a covered seating outside. Mr. Heeley said the whole premise is surrounded by an eight-nine-foot fence and that all activity will be confined within that space. He said there are three managers and hired security to keep things under control. Hours were set at from 11 a.m. until 3 a.m. seven days a week.

Members of the mosque lined up to speak with most saying they have a problem with the location, not the business. Comments included that selling alcohol six feet from a place of worship is wrong on all levels. The mosque is there to help people, they said, feeding the homeless in the 14th Street area and operating the addiction recovery center. They said that activities around a bar would interfere  with the services that are provided including keeping children away from alcohol. “This is a poor neighborhood with a drug problem, and we’re trying our best to bring good to the community,” said one speaker. The noise and traffic would also disrupt the peace that the members of the mosque find there. There are only 10 designated parking spots; the remaining vehicles would have to use on-street parking.

The language that headlines Shady’s Corner’s website is offensive, crude and toxic, the board was told, and it “disrespects our culture,” and is seen as “a kick in the face,” said multiple speakers who brought a petition signed by neighbors, opposed to the bar, while asking the beer board for help.

Board member Cynthia Coleman made a motion to deny the beer license application and the vote was unanimous, with Chairman of the Board Monica Kinsey abstaining. Vice Chairman Vince Butler recognized that the property owner, not the bar owner, had the zoning changed. He told Mr. Heeley it is his right to appeal the decision. But the bar can open because it has been given a TABC license, however, it cannot sell beer. Plans are for a soft opening at the end of next week and after kinks have been worked out, a full opening the following week. 

The beer board heard one violation on Thursday. The owner of Jay Food Mart, 860 Mountain Creek Road, was operating the cash register on the night of March 15. She stepped next door, to get something to eat and an employee filled in for her at the cash register while she was gone. The first sale he made was to a 19-year-old, who was sent into the store during a compliance check conducted by Beer Inspector Sergeant Jason Wood.

The clerk failed to scan the undercover customer’s ID to verify his age before selling the “Twisted Ice Tea.” For the business’s first offense, the beer license was suspended for three days starting Friday, April 21, until Sunday, April 23. Additionally, all employees will be required to go through Chattanooga beer sales training.



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