Tempers run hot at meeting over alleged violations by bar near scene of Chattanooga's June 5 shooting

Chattanooga Beer & Wrecker Board members voted Thursday to suspend for three days the business license for Mary's Bar & Grill, which sits near the scene of the June 5 mass shooting incident on McCallie Avenue that claimed three lives and wounded 14.

The three-hour meeting became contentious at one point, with backup Chattanooga Police Department officers being called to the scene.

The license suspension was levied on the owners of the eatery for operating their business without their beer license, which had expired.

Four other violations alleged against the bar's owners - including operating a disorderly place, offenses involving minors, loitering and gambling, and failure to use a landline to report a disturbance - were either dismissed or dropped for failure to garner enough votes on the board to sustain them.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga police still asking for public's help after three suspects charged in McCallie Avenue shooting)

The suspension will take place from June 24-26. The owners renewed their beer license on June 10 after being made aware the permit had expired.

Beer Board Chairman Bill Glascock opened discussion of the Mary's case by telling co-owner Willie Gholston that the June 5 mass shooting incident was one of the most egregious such incidents in the history of the city and said he had family living nearby in Highland Park. He very pointedly asked Gholston how he could defend the bar's role in the shooting. That question set the tone for the first part of the meeting.

Bar co-owner Demetrius Wilson later attempted to address the board without being called on, and Glascock sharply cut her off - prompting about 20 supporters to rise to their feet in support of Wilson. Chattanooga Police Department officers called for backup, and two officers arrived at the City Council building at 1000 Lindsay St. However, things had already calmed down by the time they arrived.

New board member Tara Viland spoke and offered her condolences to the crowd, drawing a thank you from many in the audience.

Glascock apologized after a five-minute break, and again before the meeting was over, saying he let his emotions get the better of him and that he should have listened to the facts before expressing himself the way he did.

"Your niece is alive. We lost family in this thing. We have blood on our clothes," one attendee was heard saying as he left the meeting.

Employee Levar Wilson addressed the board at the end of the meeting and thanked Glascock for his apology and wanted to make sure the board understood how important the eatery is to the community.

(READ MORE: 3 dead, 17 victims total after shooting on McCallie Avenue in Chattanooga)

"Mary's is so much more," he said.

Staff has long done charity work like feeding the homeless and getting Christmas donations for kids, he said.

Located near the intersection of Kelly Street and McCallie Avenue, Mary's is a friendly, community-based established that only allows men over 35 and women over 25 in, Wilson and Gholston said.

Gholston said that on June 5, they were nearing the end of a normal, calm evening when a large crowd of around 200 revelers showed up on McCallie Avenue, blocking traffic and partying in the streets. Wilson said she used her cell phone to call the city's non-emergency number at 1:35 and 1:45 a.m. to request the city police disperse the crowd before any trouble could start.

She said she told the dispatcher that the crowd seemed to be having a good time, but that they were blocking traffic.

"I wanted my employees and everybody to get home safe," she said.

She said police did not respond to the area until after shots were fired at 2:30 a.m.

Sgt. Jason Woods, beer inspector, said no record could be found of the earlier calls for help because they were not placed to the emergency line.

The Police Department later issued a statment saying, "The Chattanooga Police Department is aware of statements made by the management of Mary's Bar and Grill in reference to calls for service on June 5, 2022. In an effort to accurately answer the many questions that we know the community has about that night, the Chattanooga Police Department along with Hamilton County 911 is reviewing emergency records and will provide additional information as soon as possible. "

The Beer Board has insisted that the city's code requires businesses to use their landline phones to call police reporting any disorders, but Gholston said at that time there wasn't a disturbance at Mary's and that the problem was traffic on the street.

"By law, we can't do anything about traffic," he said. "That is for the police."

He said that after the shooting, he and his staff were outside tending to the wounded, "stepping over bodies," and that the idea of going back inside to make a phone call never came up.

Gholston told the board there is a growing problem with young people around the age of 21 having nowhere to go and creating rolling block parties.

Police believe multiple shooters opened fire on McCallie Avenue in front of Mary's as the crowd blocked traffic early June 5. In addition to the gunfire, several people were injured as a car attempted to leave the scene. In all, three people were killed: Darian Hixson, 24, Myrakle Moss, 25, and Kevin Brown, 34. A total of 14 people were injured in the incident.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly says Saturday night shooting began with disagreement among teens)

Police have since arrested three men in connection with the shooting. Garrian King, 28, was arrested June 9 and charged with possessing a firearm as a felon. Alexis Lewis, 36, was arrested Monday and charged with criminal homicide, reckless endangerment and possession of a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony. Rodney Harris was charged Tuesday for possession of a firearm as a felon.

Earlier, the board voted to issue a letter of reprimand for a fight that occurred in front of the Westbound club on Feb. 19 involving two patrons who had just left the bar on Station Street. Manager Michael Hardin told the board the club was just closing up and his security guards were in the process of bringing everything inside when two friends exited the bar and suddenly started fighting.

Security from the Chattanooga Choo Choo broke up the incident, which was videotaped by cameras at the Blue Light and by someone there, officials said.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354. Follow him on Twitter @BarryJC.

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