Chattanooga nightclub Blue Light's appeal of six citations to resume July 19 after two days of testimony

Staff File Photo by Robin Rudd / The Blue Light Bar and Grill is at 43 Station St. An early morning shooting June 19, near Station Street and the Chattanooga Choo Choo, left two people injured.
Staff File Photo by Robin Rudd / The Blue Light Bar and Grill is at 43 Station St. An early morning shooting June 19, near Station Street and the Chattanooga Choo Choo, left two people injured.

After two days of testimony and cross-examinations in the Blue Light nightclub's appeal of six citations issued to it by the Chattanooga Beer & Wrecker Board, Chancery Court Judge Jeffrey Atherton suggested the two sides pursue a mediation option before they return to his courtroom July 19 for the venue to present its case.

Atherton heard testimony from eight witnesses for the city during two full days of testimony inside his Hamilton County Courthouse, and near the end of the hearing, all parties got together to determine when their schedules allowed for reconvening to hear the venue's side of things.

Atherton commended both sides for their professionalism and passion for their clients.

While not the subject of Tuesday's proceedings, the hearings convened a week after a June 19 shooting in the heart of the city's tourism district that left two women with injuries.

The violations at issue range from a staff member being intoxicated while on duty to selling alcohol off premises to operating a disorderly place and failing to report to police a disorder. They all allegedly took place between Sept. 5, two weeks after the bar opened, and Oct. 31.

The Blue Light opened the last week in August on Station Street. The area has become the city's premier entertainment spot for adults and is known for the numerous restaurants and bars nearby. Blue Light is in the same space once occupied by the live music venue Songbirds South and is now below the Songbirds Foundation space. It is across the street from clubs Westbound and Regan's Place and the newly opened Boneyard Bar.

It is also near several other restaurants and bars inside the Chattanooga Choo Choo and is a block off Main Street on the city's Southside.

Blue Light is primarily a late-night club that mostly operates on weekends from about 10 p.m. to as late as 3 a.m. It has become a popular place for not only patrons, but people who like to drive through, or hang out, on Station Street.

Blue Light co-owner Brian Joyce said during Beer Board meetings Nov. 4 and 18, and on "The Brian Joyce Show," which he hosts on WGOW-FM 102.3, that the club has never had a proven violation inside of its premises and that he is not responsible for what happens outside the perimeter of his venue.

This was a point his attorneys, Scott Maucere and Zach Darnell, emphasized upon cross-examination of each witness, which included several Chattanooga police officers and Beer Board Chairman Bill Glascock.

In particular, the two attorneys argued that among the city's contentions was that the Blue Light was cited for operating a disorderly place after an incident that happened Oct. 31, 2021. The city contends that several people who had been seen by police leaving the Blue Light eventually got into an altercation on Station Street and the common area at the Chattanooga Choo Choo that is shared by the Back Stage, Comedy Catch and the Blue Light.

Police testified Tuesday and Wednesday that they had witnessed several people who had earlier exited the Blue Light later try to reenter. They were the people they said later got into the fight.

Attorneys for the Blue Light argued the participants had been removed from the bar as they should have been and that the fight started on Station Street and ended up on the Back Stage's patio, which is several feet away. Joyce has also said that his club has been "targeted" by Chattanooga police and city officials because it has become so popular as a late-night, multicultural place to party.

Atherton said at the conclusion of the city's presentation that he wasn't sure the venue was targeted, but that there might have been some "piling on."

He referenced testimony from John Collins, a former Chattanooga police officer who was assigned to Beer Board enforcement, from earlier in the day Wednesday, during which Collins was asked by Maucere how he decided which venues and which violations to pursue. Collins said he consulted with the officers who filed the reports related to certain incidents and the city's attorney.

Collins said he also went back and looked at reports filed related to a certain venue or address, and if he found that other violations had occurred, he added those. He said that is what he did with Blue Light. Maucere asked if he'd ever consulted with a venue owner before issuing a citation.

Collins said that he had not in his nearly two decades on the job, because he based his decision to cite a business on conversations he had with the reporting officers, who often did talk with the owner or manager and the city's attorney.

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

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