East Ridge looks to entice businesses as ordinance to loosen beer sale restrictions passes

Alcohol tile
Alcohol tile

Hoping to attract new kinds of businesses, the city of East Ridge is looking to its ordinances.

Currently, the city is working to clarify laws surrounding bed-and-breakfasts and short-term rental properties. During the city council's Sept. 12 meeting, City Attorney Mark Litchford said there are Airbnb operations in the city and advised a standardization in zoning regulations.

Councilmember Jacky Cagle said he is against these types of properties. He asked if such homeowners pay a residential fee on sanitation or are upgraded to the commercial fee. Litchford and City Manager Chris Dorsey said they'd look into how the state and the city of Chattanooga handle this topic, and hoped to have an update at the next meeting Sept. 26.

The discussion followed the final vote on an ordinance to expand beer permits to allow businesses to serve alcohol on open patios and for microbreweries to operate in the city. The move ultimately passed, but not without discussion on a new type of permit included in the ordinance to allow for self-serviced beer tap stations.

In neighboring Chattanooga, American Draft is an example of the "pour-your-own-beer hall."

The new permit was written by Dorsey in an attempt to inspire new types of businesses in East Ridge, he said. The self-serving taps would allow customers to pour their own drinks using an electronic card or wristband to track how much was poured, cutting customers off after 32 ounces at a time.

Cagle, reiterating many of the qualms he expressed before the first vote on the ordinance, continued to voice concern about this part. He said simply placing a limit on how much beer somebody can pour, rather than taking into account the person's weight or how intoxicated they are, would be dangerous.

"If we take these self-serves and have these high-power craft beers ... [establishments would need to] control which beers and how many times they are allowing these people to come up to the self-serve," Cagle said. "I just disagree with that until we can find a better way to control that."

Dorsey reminded Cagle that Tennessee law prohibits the sale of beers with an alcohol-by-volume content of 8% or more, and repeated that while the stations would be self-serve, there would be employees stationed at the taps to watch out for customers.

" ... If you're at a bar, you have the same problem [of people getting drunk]," Dorsey said. "In addition, we have it that people would watch the taps."

Cagle held that the system would not be able to accurately monitor a person and keep them from getting drunk, and voted against the ordinance. He was the sole "no" vote.

The ordinance also allows for the sale of beer at microbreweries, allows restaurants to set up outdoor serving spaces within a fenced-in patio space, ends a requirement for restaurants to submit alcohol receipts monthly, and deletes a law stating alcohol cannot be sold anywhere with pool or billiards.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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