Editors' note: Pastor Tim Reid will discuss the Mosaic Church philosophy in coming days.
Tim Reid and his supporters would have you believe that the city of Chattanooga's current attempts to curb the gang violence and chaos routinely occurring at Club Fathom is an argument about government versus a church, the police blaming Mr. Reid for all gang violence in the city of Chattanooga, or the surrounding businesses blaming Club Fathom and the Mosaic church for all of the downtown problems.
In fact it is about none of those things.
It's about a business and a business manager skirting the edges of the law to operate a nightclub intertwined with a "teen club" and a "church" to make money at the expense of and by exploiting the same young people they claim to be trying to reach through Christian ministry.
Mr. Reid enjoys the same monetary benefits of running a full-fledged nightclub as any other Chattanooga nightclub owner- except he has the assistance of the unknowing parents dropping their pre-teen and teenage children off at the front door of this establishment. He also has the financial and other types of assistance from some area churches as well as the assistance of other local agencies. Unfortunately, he's giving these supporters and patrons the false impression that his nightclub/church/teen club is a safe, nurturing, and wholesome environment, which we clearly know it is not.
The truth is that Fathom makes money off the very same kids it claims to be reaching, and the nightclub environment mixes children as young as 8 with adults in their 30s. This is a potentially disastrous mixture. Fathom has had a six- to 10-year history of complete chaos to include arguments, disorders, alcohol use, drug use, fist fights, assaults, stabbings, rapes and shootings inside the club, outside the club and even in the parking lots. The youngest victim of one of the shooting incidents was only 12 years old.
Club Fathom routinely attempts to wash its hands clean of these problems by shoving patrons and the disturbances outside onto the streets of downtown and then claiming the problems didn't occur inside. Club Fathom shoulders no responsibility or liability while all surrounding nightclubs are compelled to operate under city ordinances, Beer Board rules, and state liquor laws. I have heard from other business/nightclub owners that Mr. Reid has even bragged about mixing his "teen club/nightclub" with a church in order to skirt the law. He wrongly assumes the city of Chattanooga, the police, and government regulators can't touch him.
Mr. Reid doesn't want to cut ties with the church or his nonprofit status because of the obvious advantage it gives him financially and legally over other local businesses. He doesn't want to open up a licensed and regulated nightclub because he then loses his local Christian support and has to operate under the same guidelines as any other nightclub. Club Fathom's repeated failures would then be reported to the Beer Board like any other nightclub, and he and his organization would have to face the same sanctions as any other establishment.
Mr. Reid doesn't want to operate a "teen social club" because he would be required to comply with ordinances regulating teen social clubs. Under the regulations of a teen social club, Fathom would not be allowed to locate within 500 feet of the property line of any establishment that sells or serves alcoholic beverages. Fathom would be responsible for any and all activities in the building and in the parking areas provided for patrons. Liquor and beer couldn't be sold on the premises by the club management or even by people leasing the venue, as is routinely done now.
A teen club would need to avoid any violations of Hamilton County Health Department rules. The club would be required to avoid violations of the Chattanooga curfew laws. Teen social clubs must close at 11 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. A teen social club would also require management to use photo IDs, wristbands, and an entry and exit log with the names, ages, and dates of birth for all patrons under the age of 16. These patron logs would then need to be immediately available to law enforcement. All this would cost time and money, something Mr. Reid wishes to avoid.
Instead, Fathom now operates as a nightclub disguised as a church. The club plays adult-themed music, with explicit references to sex, drugs, violence and profanity. The club routinely uses sexually degrading advertisements of women to invite teen participation.
Club Fathom charges a cover from $5 to $15 per person with the right to charge more depending on the entertainer.
Fathom routinely leases its facility to anyone for any purpose at a rate of $1,500 a night. Leasing allows the group to cater food and offer liquor and beer with only a warning "you must be 21 to drink during this outreach ministry." Sound like church so far?
Mr. Reid has been hiding his nightclub behind the doors of a "church" and mixing it with a teen social club just enough to claim that it's a youth outreach, and this city has suffered the results. No, he isn't the only venue in Chattanooga with violence problems and gang issues. But he is the only one in town with tax-exempt status while making money at the risk of those citizens he is supposedly "ministering" to.
Club Fathom, also known as Mosaic church, also known as The Warehouse, should either operate as a church with a legitimate teen outreach. Or, operate as a teen social club and abide by the city ordinance regulating those businesses. Or go into the bar and nightclub business like the majority of his surrounding neighbors, and be regulated by the Beer Board rules and state liquor laws. Pick one and comply with the law.
Stop hiding behind the self-made cloud of confusion to make the almighty dollar at the expense of the very youth you claim to be reaching out to. You are hurting the innocent patrons and residents of downtown. You are jeopardizing the lives of law enforcement and other emergency personnel who routinely respond to clean up your mess. You are tarnishing the reputation and livelihood of other downtown businesses, and you are destroying the nationwide reputation of a city that relies heavily on tourism in order to survive.
- Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd