Blue Light of Chattanooga has suspended its beer license for further violations

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The Blue Light nightclub on Station Street has again had its beer license suspended by the Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board.

Board members voted on Thursday to suspend the company’s license for two weeks for failing to report a disorder inside the club via its landline, which the board says is required by the code, and for a week for exploiting a disorderly place. The suspensions are expected to take place simultaneously from March 3. The site can appeal suspensions.

Chattanooga Police Department officer Dylan Johnston told council he was called to the bar on January 29 in response to a report of a man punching three people in the face before leaving the bar, then come back some time later. Johnston said he wrote in his report that a 911 call was made to police after the man returned to the club.

Beer Inspector Sgt. Jason Woods said the phone number did not match the number listed as the club’s business or landline. Blue Light attorney Zachery Darnell argued that the city code does not specifically define what a disorder is, nor does it specifically say that all disorders must be reported by a location on a landline.

Club co-owner Brian Joyce also disputed that one of his security guards only called 911 after the man returned to the club. He also said there was no fighting or disorder in the club to begin with.

Joyce said after the meeting that in six months of operation the bar had never had a fight, gunshot or weapon found inside the premises. There were altercations outside, including what police called “another fight/big mess” outside the club on December 15 which police say also involved a shooting which was “determined as accidental and self-inflicted”.

Assistant City Attorney Melinda Foster said the city’s ordinance specifies that a landline must be present and in working order and states that beer license holders are required to report any trouble. Although the city code doesn’t specifically say the call must come from a landline, she said the council has always operated knowing that the implication of the ordinance is that the landline must be used. when reporting a trouble for safety reasons, as these phones tell emergency responders where the location is.

Board member Cynthia Coleman asked Joyce if he had read the code and understood that the landline had to be used and he said yes to both, but that he thought his security guard had using his cell phone because it was faster.

Some council members also said they were unsure of the definition of disorder.

Calandra Smith, coordinator of the Hamilton County Coalition which is certified by the city to teach the beer code and to certify staff and owners of bars, restaurants, clubs and retailers who sell beer in the city, addressed the question of what constitutes a disturbance before the board of directors at the end of the meeting, “to clear this up.”

She said defining a disorder is a key part of her training, and she stressed there is a “zero tolerance” meaning it is not up to site staff to try. to determine the extent to which a disorder should be treated and reported.

She said she insists someone on the scene needs to call even if things don’t escalate into a fisticuff. She said it’s not unusual for a disorder to appear to be over and then things can quickly “turn left quickly and people have lost their lives”.

“It’s a section [of the training] we take very seriously,” she said.

Joyce argued that his security guard used his cell phone to call 911 to “expedite” the call, and that leaving the outside deck where the man was to place the call on the company phone, which is behind the bar, would have taken too long. .

Several board members agreed with this assessment, but others pointed out that the city had always required calling to a landline. Joyce later said “how stupid”.

Joyce told a press conference after the meeting that the citations against him were “false and unjustified” and that the police reports of the incidents were “full of lies and inaccuracies”. He also accused the board of being “biased, twisted and corrupt”.

Joyce told attendees of his press conference that he believed his bar was racially targeted by city officials for attracting hip-hop fans and taking business away from people. other clubs along Station Street and the owners are therefore ‘jealous.’

He also wondered why these clubs, and others, weren’t subject to the same level of scrutiny his site receives.

The citations are the seventh and eighth issued against the Blue Light since November, when the council cited the company for allowing an employee to consume alcohol or be intoxicated on site, for selling off-premises alcohol twice, for having operated a disorderly place on two occasions and for failing to report a disorder.

The bar had its license suspended for several weeks and eventually revoked for these violations in November. The company appealed and won a stay in Hamilton County Chancery Court. The cases will be heard on March 25, and Joyce and her attorney Scott Maucere said they look forward to their “case being heard in a real court with a real judge.”

The council also voted to delay the hearing of two similar Blue Light-related cases on Station Street because none of the parties involved in the incident, which allegedly took place on January 22, were present. These cases will be heard on March 3.

Foster attended Joyce’s press conference after the board meeting, but declined to comment afterward. Messages seeking comment from City Attorney Emily O’Donnell were not returned.

Contact Barry Courter at [email protected] or 423-757-6354. Follow him on Twitter @BarryJC.

Milton S. Rodgers