The Chattanooga Beer & Wrecker Board reversed its April 6 unanimous decision to deny a beer permit for Shady's Corner at Thursday's meeting, clearing the way for beer sales at the bar and restaurant next door to the Islamic Center on Cemetery Avenue.
The meeting started a few minutes late because board members had a private meeting with City Attorney Phil Noblett, according to police Sgt. Jason Wood.
The board voted 5-2 to grant the business a permit, with board members Vince Butler and Cythia Coleman voting to deny.
Chairwoman Monica Kinsey and members Ron Smith, Tiffany Bell, Reginald Washington and Dan Mayfield voted to approve the permit.
Mayfield said prior to his vote, "I don't like it, but yes."
Mayfield said another part of the city's code overrules the city's beer ordinance, which bars beer sales within 500 feet of a church or school.
Several members said the wording of the code is ambiguous. Mayfield, Butler and Coleman urged the city to clarify the wording.
"This is a problem for us on the board," Mayfield said. "We've always operated on the idea of not allowing beer sales within 500 feet of schools or churches."
Shady's Corner owner James Heeley, who was not in attendance, said by text after the meeting that he would comment after "all of our legal agreements are signed."
About 45 members of the mosque attended the April 6 Beer Board meeting to voice their complaints about having a bar right next to their place of worship. The matter was not on the agenda Thursday, and no one from the mosque attended.
Imam Hammad El-Ameen said by phone Thursday that he believes the board should have let a judge hear and decide the case.
"We wish they would have allowed the process to work itself out," he said. "They went back on their word. And, what this means is that no church, synagogue or mosque is safe in Chattanooga."
The April 6 Beer Board denial only concerned the sale of beer. Heeley got his license to sell alcohol from the state, and El-Ameen said the bar opened about a week ago.
"There have been people everywhere and about 50 to 70 cars all over the streets. Big screen TVs and loudspeakers," he said. "How can you worship with that going?"
El-Ameen said he is not defeated by the decision and that the members will regroup and figure out what is next for them.
El-Ameen said in an interview last month that members visit the mosque five times each day to pray and that Islam does not allow alcohol.
The board also voted to suspend a convenience store's license for selling beer to a minor. Wood said during a routine compliance check, a minor was sent into several locations to attempt to buy alcohol.
Wood said the clerk at Raceway No. 6843 at 405 Signal Mountain Road did check the ID, but sold the alcohol anyway.
Owner Saurin Patel apologized to the board and said he and all of his employees have undergone training and that his staff would receive the training on an annual basis going forward.
After questions from board members, Wood said he has cited Blue Light club owner Brian Joyce for another violation within the past couple of weeks. The case will be heard June 1 at the request of the Blue Light's attorney, he said.
The new violation could void the agreement between Joyce and the city allowing the Station Street nightclub to keep its permit after several violations culminating in the Beer Board voting to revoke the Blue Light's permit in 2022.
The agreement calls for a security plan to have been put in place last November and that the bar be on probation for 12 months. As he has at previous meetings, Butler expressed his frustration that no such agreement has been finalized.