The Chattanooga Beer & Wrecker Board voted on Thursday to revoke the license of the Blue Light nightclub in the city's signature Station Street area in the Chattanooga Choo Choo complex.
The action came two weeks after the board had voted to suspend the license for four upcoming weekends related to four separate violations. Thursday's vote came after hearing evidence on two more violations.
Owner Brian Joyce let the board know through his attorney that he would be appealing the last two cases in Chancery Court, as he has the first four, according to City Attorney Melinda Foster.
If granted a stay, the bar, in the old Songbirds South location, will be able to remain open while it appeals the decisions.
The cases will also be sent to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which oversees liquor licensing in the state. It could find the nightclub in violation of its laws and codes, as well.
In addition, the club's landlord, NorthPond Partners, has issued a default against the club and has begun eviction proceedings against the Blue Light, according to Merri Hurn with Second Story Real Estate, which manages the retail portion of the Choo Choo for NorthPond.
The six violations against the Blue Light were issued for five different nights starting in early September, and the board heard the first four on Nov. 4 and the remaining two on Thursday.
During the previous meeting, the club was given a three-day suspension for an employee drinking or being intoxicated on the premises, a letter of reprimand for selling beer and Jell-O shots on Station Street, a five-day suspension for operating a disorderly place related to altercation outside of its premises and a six-day suspension spread over two weekends for selling bottled beer on Station Street.
On Thursday, the bar, which opened in the summer, was cited for not reporting an altercation, which is required by city code, and for operating a disorderly place. Both of those violations were related to events the last weekend of October.
The club was given a 30-day suspension or a $1,000 fine for the first on Thursday, and then the board voted to revoke the bar's beer license for good after voting on the second case.
The board heard both cases simultaneously but voted on them separately, as was the case with the previous four.
On Oct. 30, Chattanooga Police officers Joseph Goulet and Luke Simon were working for security for another business on Station Street as they often did, they testified. When performing such roles, they are still officially city police officers, though not technically on the city's clock.
Both testified they observed a large crowd on the Blue Light patio and on the streets. Around 2 a.m., they noticed six or seven men being asked to leave the club and stopping on the patio near the entrance. Goulet said the men appeared agitated.
He said the men were refused re-entry into the Blue Light by the club's security, and he said his experience as an officer and his reading of body language indicated things were about to escalate.
"In my opinion, we prevented a shooting," Goulet told the board.
Simon called for backup and then approached customers on the adjoining patio at the Back Stage, which is part of but separate from the Comedy Catch, and told them to go inside.
People in the crowd started fighting, and the fight moved down the patio to the Back Stage area, where owner Michael Alfano said he got caught up in the melee and came away with broken glasses and a chipped tooth.
Alfano testified that he felt The Blue Light was a disorderly place that threatened his business and the safety of his staff and customers and diminished Station Street as a safe place for families to come.
City Beer Board Officer John Collins said as the call for backup went out citywide, large parts of the city were without a police presence.
Board members saw body camera video of the incident from both Simon and Goulet showing them chasing a man with what appeared to be a gun in his pocket among the fighting crowd while they tried to break up the fight. They also later stopped another man with a gun outside of the club but did not arrest him because he was not inebriated but did arrest another with a gun who was.
The board also saw a 13-minute video presented by Joyce showing the men being asked to leave the club after a verbal altercation and an otherwise calm nightclub. It didn't show a fight. Joyce told the board there was a verbal altercation inside the club and that his security guards escorted the men outside.
"There was not a physical fight," he said. "We separated the guys."
Board member Vince Butler has been on the board about two years and said, "I've never seen one [a club] get this many violations in such a short time. We've revoked for less."
It was suggested by officers at the Nov. 4 meeting that possible gang activity and a "hip-hop" atmosphere may have contributed to some of the problems at the Blue Light. Those topics were pointedly not mentioned during Thursday's meeting except by Alfano, who did say he thought it contributed.
Blue Light attorney Zach Darnell asked him to define what he meant by hip-hop on cross-examination, and Alfano said "the lyrics, the attitude, the culture."
Board member Cynthia Coleman said after voting to revoke, "This is not about hip-hip and the culture. I just want to go on the record as saying that."
Member Brooke King said, "This is about being able to manage the crowd, the security and the staff."
She added that included being responsible for what happens inside a business and outside and "even down on the street."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.