Judge to Chattanooga’s Blue Light: ‘Bang out’ a security plan by end of Friday

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / The Blue Light Bar at 43 Station St. was photographed in 2022. The bar was ordered to complete a security plan Friday as legal proceedings over the status of its beer permit continued.
Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / The Blue Light Bar at 43 Station St. was photographed in 2022. The bar was ordered to complete a security plan Friday as legal proceedings over the status of its beer permit continued.

The Blue Light, a club on Chattanooga's Station Street, was ordered Friday to complete a safety plan addressing a string of violations following months of negotiations with the city.

Earlier this month, the club's beer permit was revoked for the second time since it opened in 2021.

Lawyers for owner Brian Joyce appealed that decision. A judge restored the permit on a temporary basis June 9, allowing the Blue Light to resume serving beer after about a week.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga's Blue Light can serve beer again, pending hearing)

During a hearing Friday, Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton ordered the Blue Light to turn in a security plan by the end of the day.

"You're going to sit down, and you're going to bang out a plan that's consistent with the order that I put down last year," Atherton said. "And if you're here for an hour, great. If you're here until next Thursday, nonstop, no leaving the courtroom, that's great, too. I want a plan in my hands before you leave this courtroom."

Bar owners and the city agreed to create a security plan in October, when they reached an agreement that allowed Blue Light to keep serving beer on a probationary basis after its permit was revoked the first time in early 2022.

Since then, there have been "months of negotiations" between the city and the bar, Blue Light attorney Zachery Darnell said following Friday's hearing.

"We're in compliance with the agreement we already have," Joyce said after the hearing.

City attorneys argued at a June 1 meeting of the Chattanooga Beer & Wrecker Board that the club's most recent citations -- for disorder, open containers outside and failing to report a fight -- also violate that agreement.

(READ MORE: Beer permit revoked for Blue Light on Station Street after reported violations)

Beer board members voted to revoke the Blue Light's beer permit at that meeting, after finding it failed to call police about a fight on its patio in early April. Joyce said he should not have been cited because he reported the fight to officers on Station Street at the time and cooperated with their investigation.

The city code has no requirement that such reports must be made by telephone and does not contain a time frame of any sort within which a permittee must make such reports, Robin Flores, an attorney representing the bar owners, said in a June 8 filing.

Tensions rose at the June 1 meeting, with Joyce and city attorney Phil Noblett calling each other liars following confusion over the security plan and recent citations.

The board filed an order revoking the club's beer permit after the June 1 meeting, citing the reporting violation. Two weeks later, the board amended that paperwork to add a charge for operating a disorderly place. The citation is the ninth for the bar since its opening, Noblett said Friday.

(READ MORE: Blue Light on Station Street, city of Chattanooga come to terms over beer board violations)

Friday's hearing was meant to address the revocation, but that discussion will be pushed to August after Flores argued Friday the late filing did not give enough notice for the bar owners to respond to the disorder citation.

The club first lost its beer permit in November 2021, two months after opening, due to six different code violations in that time. The violations included a staff member intoxicated on the job, operating a disorderly business and failing to report a fight, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Starting in April, executive orders from Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly have targeted safety on Station Street following an increase in violence and calls to police there. The Blue Light participated in a general security plan for the area earlier this year, according to city attorneys. The bar was cited in May for allowing customers to take open containers of alcohol outside, in violation of the mayor's orders.

Chattanooga police in May introduced a Nightlife Engagement Team, stationing officers in high-volume areas downtown. As of this week, there has been a 29% decrease in 911 calls on Station Street compared to the first three months of the year, Executive Chief Glenn Scruggs said during a Thursday media briefing.

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

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