Three Chattanooga businesses — two clubs and one restaurant — will have to suspend beer sales in the coming weeks due to underage drinking, employees drinking and overcrowding.
Jack Brown's Beer & Burger Joint at 818 Georgia Ave. was handed a three-day suspension of beer sales after an employee was in a wreck because she was driving under the influence after drinking at the downtown restaurant, officers said.
A Chattanooga police officer told board members at their meeting Thursday that he responded to the wreck over St. Patrick's Day weekend, and the woman — a bartender — said she had been drinking while at work. Within Chattanooga city limits, employees are not allowed to drink at their place of work whether or not they are on or off the clock.
Officer Bo Allison said the woman first stated she had an alcoholic beverage and shots at the restaurant but then she changed it to two alcoholic beverages and shots.
"Then with the threats, stating that if I came into her business then she would spit into my burger and other threats toward me," he said.
The general manager of Jack Brown's said the employee has since been fired, and she drank without the knowledge of the management. The suspension will begin on Thursday, May 16 and end at 3 a.m. Sunday morning.
Underage drinking at La Pachanga
The beer board also issued a two-day suspension starting Friday, May 17 at La Pachanga Night Club, located at 1504 Foust St., after Chattanooga police officers and Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents said they found an 18-year-old who was intoxicated at the club on March 17.
Chattanooga police officer John Collins told board members that they had been told by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus police that underage drinking often happened at the club.
Since then, an attorney for the club owners said they have stopped allowing patrons under 21 years old to come in the club. Before, the club would host college nights that allowed 18-to 20-year-old patrons to also enter but not drink alcohol. The attorney said employees have received training about responsible serving from the Hamilton County Coalition and the club staff now checks IDs with a scanner that can detect if it is fake or not.
The club's liquor license has not been suspended; the fine handed down Thursday is just for beer sales.
Neighbors who live near the night club also spoke at the meeting, stating while underage drinking is a problem, parking in the neighborhood is also an issue because of the club. The occupancy of the night club is about 500, according to city staff, but Cecilie Roman, a resident in the area, said cars are crowding and blocking streets in the area. It would be difficult for emergency vehicles to get down the street if they needed to, she said.
"There's not parking for 250 cars, and you are telling me this place houses 500," she said. "It's amazing the fire department would even let 500."
Roman also said she often hears gun shots coming from the area of the night club late at night or early in the morning. The club was not cited for these issues, though.
"My advice to all my clients with a liquor license is that you've got to be a good neighbor," said Marty Lasley, the attorney for the night club owners.
A city zoning inspector spoke at the meeting and said that the occupancy limit for a business is based on square footage of the building and not the size of the parking lot.
Overcrowding at Regan's Place
Regan's Place, a club on Station Street in downtown Chattanooga, will not be allowed to serve beer for two days after being cited for overcrowding at the bar and club, according to officers.
Officer Collins said that he and TABC agents went to Regan's Place on March 24 around 12:30 a.m. and asked a security guard how many people were inside the club. The security guard said about 300. The occupancy limit of the club was only 175 at the time.
Collins said that a count by the officers and guards ended up being closer to 216. An attorney for the club's owners said they had the occupancy limit increased since the incident to 209, but he said their policy is to let no more than 180 people into the club to make sure there are no further overcrowding issues.
Beer board members still cited them with a two-day suspension which will begin Thursday, May 16 and end at 3 a.m. Saturday morning.
"We talk about serving people under 21, but when we look at history, the major times when there are a lot of people who are killed in any of these clubs it is (because) of overcrowding," said city attorney Keith Reisman. "Something goes wrong and then they can't get out because of the overcrowding, and that's why this board takes that so seriously."
Board member Trevor Atchley recalled when he was at a family event on Glass Street, and the building's floor collapsed.
"It was just the most terrifying experience I've ever had in my entire life," he said. "This is a serious issue — overcrowding is — because if there is some sort of emergency occurrence, people don't care about who is in front of them or behind them self-preservation is the only concern (and) people get trampled, people get killed. It is something we take very seriously."
Contact staff writer Allison Shirk Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org, @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.