Beer Board Hears Testimony Of Bikini Bar's Private Dance Area

  • Sunday, June 9, 2024
  • Gail Perry

The bar at 115 Honest Street has had a license to sell beer for about a year and a half. The application for the beer permit was for Worldwide Ministries, doing business as “The Pony,” which was to be a “bikini bar” and at the time, the entertainment was to be dancing. At a bikini bar, people are fully clothed, said Beer Inspector Sgt. Jason Wood. At this week’s beer board meeting the business was charged with violations of “prohibited acts on the premises.” The city’s beer code delineates the actions and conditions, all of a sexual nature, that are prohibited.

During a bar check on May 4, Beer Inspector Jason Wood, entered the bar at 10:17 p.m. and found the main bar area in compliant with the laws. While in the entryway, he heard male and female voices and followed them down a hallway that is directly off of the entrance area. It led him into an area referred to as the “private dance area,” where he found a completely nude female and male lap dancing. The couple did not hear him and he was able to get Officer Phillip Moser to return to the room with him as a witness. Once she was dressed, the woman told Sgt. Wood that she didn’t know she was doing anything in violation of the law because everyone there did the same thing. She also told Sgt. Wood that she did not have an adult entertainment permit from the city.

Attorney Gary Veazey, representing the bar told the beer board that the area of the bar that sold beer and where Sgt. Wood said it appeared to be compliant with the beer code is designated as “Unit B,” and he said that is the part of the business which is licensed to sell beer and alcohol. The private dance areas are in “Unit A and C” is a different business where no beer or alcohol is sold. Signs in the hall tell customers that alcohol is not allowed there, so he contended that area was not under the jurisdiction of the beer board and argued to dismiss the complaint. But Sgt. Wood said that adult entertainment falls under prohibited acts on the premise, and that is under the beer board’s authority.

Travis Patton, special agent with the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission was also present during the bar check on May 4. His report described entering the business through the single door into the bar that is open to the public. He followed the hall from the entrance into a room he said was a VIP area for lap dancing. He said non-alcoholic beverages were being sold in that area by a man who identified themself as an employee of Diamond and Lace. Around the large area he said he saw multiple open doors, one of them was the same room where Sgt. Wood and Officer Moser found the couple. He said that what he saw was in violation of TABC laws.

The beer and alcohol licenses are for the address 115 Honest Street, and he said that any area that is accessible from the main door is part of the licensed area, including the VIP rooms. To the TABC, the whole business is considered to be Diamonds and Lace. Additionally, there is a single electric meter for the business, he said. The TABC license is for The Pony, it says nothing about Units AB or C, said Special Agent Patton. Chattanooga Code Enforcement Inspector Zach Wiley also told the board that the certificate of occupancy is for one business, there is no designation of Units or Suites, and there is only one address. Patton told the board that a beer or alcohol license cannot be turned on and off in different areas of a building.

“You can call it what you want, but the license simply says 115 Honest Street. Units A, B, and C are just a loophole," said Beer Board Member Brooke Barclift. So the question for the board was about sustaining prohibited actions. Board Member Ron Smith made the motion to sustain the violations and for a three-day suspension of the beer license. The vote was unanimous to approve. The suspension will be on June 20, 21 and 22. The business has the right to appeal the decision to the chancery court.

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