published Thursday, July 17th, 2014

North Shore restaurant Big Chill and Grill punished for overserving; can't sell beer for six days

North Shore restaurant and bar The Big Chill and Grill will not be allowed to serve beer for six days starting July 31 after the Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board decided today that the bar overserved two different patrons who were intoxicated.

The incidents happened on June 27 and 28, Chattanooga police officer John Collins said. The Big Chill and Grill has now been cited three times in four months for overserving.

On June 27, a man crashed his vehicle into another on Westside Drive near King’s Lodge at about 12:45 a.m., sending the other driver to the hospital with substantial injuries.

During the subsequent investigation, the man told police he had been drinking at The Big Chill and Grill and had just left. He was unsteady on his feet and smelled of alcohol, police said. The man had a receipt from Big Chill and Grill for $44, which included six beers and two shots, said Sgt. David Allen.

Servers at The Big Chill and Grill said the man was buying drinks for other patrons and only drank two-and-a-half beers. Big Chill and Grill employees also said the man did not appear drunk when they served him. The man, who was arrested for driving under the influence, closed his tab at 12:22 a.m., about 25 minutes before the crash.

Chattanooga attorney Johnny Houston, who represented The Big Chill and Grill, said that the restaurant should not be held responsible for the man’s actions after he left the bar.

“You can’t hold the bar responsible for every action of someone who decides to get behind the wheel who shouldn’t,” he said. “There is no proof he was intoxicated while he was at The Big Chill.”

But Chattanooga beer board member Ron Smith said he thought the incident pointed to a larger problem.

“There seems to be a top down management problem at The Big Chill,” he said. “They consistently over serve customers. I think Big Chill has got to get the message.”

The board issued a 3-day suspension for the violation in a five-to-three vote. In the second incident on July 28, police officers observed a customer at the Big Chill and Grill who was staggering and slurring. When approached by police, the customer said he’d been drinking all day and had arrived at Big Chill and Grill already drunk.

The bar served the man a shot, and the bartender said the man did not appear drunk when she served him that shot. But when approached by police, the customer took a breath test and blew three times the legal limit.

Houston argued that the man was on the edge of intoxication when he arrived at the bar and that the one shot served by the bartender put him over the edge.

Beer board member Forestine Haynes said she believes the bar still over served the customer.

“It was just one drink, but they still over served him,” she said. “One drink, but that one drink was one drink too many.”

Big Chill and Grill owner Scarlett Bowman said she did not see the man display any of the classic signs of drunkenness and said the customer was not causing any problems in the bar.

The beer board issued a second 3-day suspension for the second violation. The bar will be unable to sell beer from July 31 through August 5.

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or with tips or story ideas.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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