Alan Gold's is fighting a two-week suspension of its beer sales, and the bar's attorney, Johnny Houston, said anti-gay sentiment may have prompted the Chattanooga Beer Board to deal out what Houston described as a "heavy" punishment.
"You can't help but wonder if it has to do with the fact that it's thought of as a gay club," Houston said. "It's thought of as a gay club, even though a lot of nongay customers go there."
On May 4, Alan Gold's had its beer license suspended from May 18 to June 2 by the Chattanooga Beer Board because the bar didn't report a Feb. 26 assault. Chattanooga police Officer Cornelius Gaines told the beer board that Tyler Taylor, a bouncer at the bar, got patron Billy Oliver on the ground at 1 a.m. and hit Oliver in the face until "his head was bouncing off the floor like a basketball." Oliver lost a tooth, had a face bone fractured and was left covered with blood, Gaines testified.
Houston doesn't dispute that Alan Gold's failed to report the incident. But Houston questions the severity of the 14-day suspension, which was in response to the bar's first beer code violation in 28 years.
"Twenty-eight years, no incidents whatsoever, and then they received a pretty heavy suspension," said Houston, who appealed in Hamilton County Chancery Court. "It's like somebody getting caught public drunk, and they give him a year in jail — it's just too much."
Assistant City Attorney Keith Reisman, who represents the beer board and attends its meetings, said the two-week suspension was due to the severity of the victim's injuries.
"All I can say is that [gay bar] issue never came up at the beer board," Reisman said. "What did come up was severity of injuries of the person at the bar. After this horrific injury, nobody from Alan Gold's called to report the incident, which is a requirement of the beer board."
"I think the beer board listened to the evidence and made a decision based on the facts that were before it," he said.
Alan Gold's appeal means beer can keep flowing at the bar until the matter is settled in court. No court date has yet been set.
Houston, a motorcycle enthusiast who's known as the "biker attorney" and also serves as Red Bank city judge, also recently appealed an April 20 beer board decision to suspend beer sales for three days at Ruth's Chris Steak House after a waitress served beer to two underage decoys during a sting operation there.