East Ridge eyeing improved beer permits

Alcohol tile
Alcohol tile

As it stands, businesses and restaurants in the city of East Ridge are fairly limited when it comes to beer and liquor sales. The city's regulations go so far as not allowing sales anywhere that has pool tables and restricting alcohol from being served on open patio spaces.

But new regulations are in the works. If passed on Sept. 12, the city will completely erase, replace and add to Title 8, Chapter 2 of the Municipal Code, which pertains to retail alcohol permits at restaurants, hotels and breweries.

The adjustment of these permits, said City Manager Chris Dorsey, would help lure new businesses to the area and expand possibilities for current restaurant owners.

A new ordinance announced at a meeting on Aug. 22 would add two new types of retail beer permits - one for hotels and another for self-service like growler stations.

In writing the permits, Dorsey said he tried to keep the language as similar to Chattanooga's as possible in the hopes that if breweries or restaurants wanted to expand to an East Ridge location, they would not have to change their business models.

The proposed ordinance also better defines permits for on-premise consumption, he said, while scaling back some of the existing regulations. At long last, beer would be able to be served in establishments with pool and billiard tables, though Dorsey said that rule has not actually been enforced.

Currently, establishments with permits to sell alcohol for on-premise consumption are required to submit gross receipts each month to prove that at least 50% of sales are from food or other nonalcoholic items like merchandise. Under the new ordinance, restaurants would not need to submit sales receipts each month but the city would retain the right to request those documents.

The existing permits also limit outdoor serving spaces to those with permanent roof fixtures. If passed, the new ordinance would allow restaurants to have open fenced-in patio spaces, but Dorsey kept options open for the city's Beer Board to have the final say in specific regulations.

The ordinance's new permit for self-serving establishments is one that Chattanooga does not have, but Dorsey wrote it in as a new possibility for businesses to consider. On a recent trip, he visited a bar with self-service beer taps which customers were able to pour from using an electronic card or wristband tracking system to keep up with their final purchases, which are then charged by volume. He noted that the tracker cut each person off after 32 ounces at a time and that a server was set up by the tap to ensure proper usage of the equipment.

The ordinance passed 3-1 on first reading, but not without discussion.

Councilman Jacky Cagle said he was concerned that self-serve beer establishments would not be able to accurately monitor a person from getting drunk. Councilman Mike Chauncey said that whether at a bar or at a self-service establishment, it is up to the entire management team to make sure that does not happen.

Cagle ultimately voting against the ordinance, and Vice Mayor Esther Helton was absent. The second and final reading is Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. at East Ridge City Hall, 1517 Tombras Ave.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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