Beer permit revoked for Blue Light on Station Street after reported violations

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Blue Light is seen on the morning of April 21 following Mayor Tim Kellys executive order requiring businesses to stop serving alcohol by 12:30 a.m. and to close at or before 1 a.m. The bar had its beer permit revoked on Thursday.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Blue Light is seen on the morning of April 21 following Mayor Tim Kellys executive order requiring businesses to stop serving alcohol by 12:30 a.m. and to close at or before 1 a.m. The bar had its beer permit revoked on Thursday.

This story was updated on June 2 to correct the spelling of Reagan's Retro Bar.

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A Station Street club has lost its beer permit after the latest in a string of violations reported there.

Members of the Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board voted Thursday to revoke Blue Light's permit after finding the bar did not call police when a fight broke out on its property April 2.

The bar will not be allowed to sell beer indefinitely, unless the permit revocation is appealed.

Blue Light owner Brian Joyce said during Thursday's meeting that he feels the board has treated him unfairly. Reagan's Retro Bar, another Station Street bar, was cited for the same thing last month and was not punished, Joyce said, though he pointed out it was the first violation for Reagan's.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga Beer Board hears updates on security plans for Station Street, Blue Light)

Joyce said he didn't call police right away after seeing a fight on the club's front patio because he was focused on calming the chaos that followed. A motorcycle on Station Street backfired, prompting people on the street to scatter and some to rush inside Blue Light because they believed it sounded like gunshots, police said.

"The very first thing I did do was grab my phone and go to call police, and it's at that time that the guy on the motorcycle gunned his engine," he said. "At that time, I was dealing with a much more chaotic situation."

Joyce provided a video, shown at Thursday's meeting, that shows him making a phone call as the fight breaks out. He told board members he had been calling his security company for backup due to the large crowd.

Eight people who were involved in the fight were identified after Joyce met with the victim, he said, and have been banned from Blue Light and other Station Street bars.

The bar had its beer permit revoked early last year, after collecting six code violations during its first few months of business. After appealing, Joyce and the city reached an agreement in November that allowed the bar to continue serving beer on a probationary basis and required Joyce to make a security plan and check in periodically with city officials.

Board members voted Thursday to directly notify the Chancery Court of Blue Light's violation, since it also violates the terms of its probation.

Confusion over the timeline of the security plan and subsequent violations caused tensions to flare during the meeting.

Joyce said he did not know he would be answering questions about the security plan. He also could not answer questions from city attorney Phil Noblett about appeals for previous violations filed in Chancery Court, saying his lawyer had handled that process for him.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga's Blue Light, Beer Board again at odds over settlement deadline)

"If you're wondering why I'm accusing the city of unfair treatment, this is why," Joyce said. "And now to be snowballed and bombarded with this when it's not even on the agenda, and I don't even have lawyers present. And you're wondering, Mr. Noblett, why I think this is a little bit unfair. Is it still a head scratcher?"

After Noblett mentioned there have been eight previous violations at the Blue Light since its opening in 2021, Joyce said the majority of those should not be considered since they happened before the bar's agreement with the city and the formation of the security plan.

"The agreed order states a probationary period from Oct. 28, 2022," Joyce said. "You just cited seven instances from before that, which goes to show your bias, Mr. Noblett."

Joyce also said he was never notified of the most recent citation, a May 4 violation for allowing customers to leave the premises with alcohol while the open container rules were suspended per Kelly's executive order.

"You've just defamed me in a public hearing," Joyce said. "You just lied."

"No, I did not lie, sir," Noblett said.

"Yeah, you did lie," Joyce said. "You just said that I have nine citations since I came to an agreement with you, and that is a lie, sir, and you know it."

"I think you're lying, sir," Noblett said.

"And you're defaming our — oh yeah, you think so?" Joyce held his open laptop toward the city attorney. "Here it is, brother. You want to see it? Says right here. You people have defamed my business partner, my staff and myself as much as I'm going to allow you to, all right? If you want to go to a full-blown lawsuit, we can, or guess what? Otherwise we're just going to forfeit our beer permit. We don't even need it."

Beer permits are separate from liquor licenses, meaning bars can still serve hard liquor even when barred from selling beer.

Bars on Station Street were required to close earlier and restrict the carrying of open containers of alcohol after Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly issued an executive order targeting crime in the area. The mayor also temporarily closed Station Street to cars.

Kelly issued the order after several violent incidents at Blue Light and other Station Street bars, Chris Anderson, an adviser to Kelly, told the board Thursday.

(READ MORE: Comedy Catch owner calls for Chattanooga mayor to rescind executive order for Station Street)

"The increasing violence in the area concerned us all, especially the mayor, that we would see something far deadlier if we didn't do something," Anderson said.

Beer Board members decided to wait and discuss two other citations for the Blue Light, which accuse the bar of violating the mayor's executive order, at the next meeting on June 15.

Cameron Hill, an attorney representing Blue Light landlord Northpond Partners, said his client wants to see accountability for the bar.

"I'm not here today to pass judgment on whether somebody did something wrong or not," Hill told board members. "I am here today to request that the board hold people accountable for things that occur that should not occur, especially in the environment that we're trying to grow and nurture in the Southside area."

Contact Ellen Gerst at egerst@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6319.


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