Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board Chairman Ron Smith said, "it is getting old," and long-time beer board member Chris Keene said it was "ridiculous and just not right."
They were talking about the difficulty of getting quorums for the twice monthly meetings of the nine-member, volunteer board to hear cases on violations of the city code relating to the beer and liquor licenses of local businesses.
"Many of the cases here involve circumstances where people can end up dead," said Keene. "I understand there are times when people can't get here, but we need more than five or six to show up."
A case Tuesday involving Saloon 75 Sur, formerly the Rock & Country Club in Brainerd, caused the board to go through a series of motions in order to agree on a motion that could get five votes. The end result was the club, open only on weekends, will have its license suspended for two consecutive weekends beginning Sept. 20.
"If we had a full board here, we could have had a good discussion, and it is almost certain we would not have to go through a bunch of motions to reach a decision," said Keene.
According to city code, there needs to be at least five members present for a quorum and vote. The board issues beer permits for establishments and special events in the city and can revoke or suspend beer licenses when someone violates the city's beer code.
"It's frustrating for all of us because if you only have five, all five have to agree for anything to get done," said Smith. The board canceled meetings in April and June because fewer than five members showed up.
Six members were present Thursday: Smith, Keene, Dan Mayfield, Cynthia Coleman, Trevor Atchley and Brooke Bradley-King. New appointees Alicia Taylor and Vince Butler were absent, and one seat is vacant.
Butler, who was appointed in June, has not missed a meeting before and was unavailable Thursday due to a previously scheduled business commitment. Taylor, who has not attended a meeting, could not be reached for comment.
The vacant seat is the representative from District 8 and Councilman Anthony Byrd. It has been vacant since James Hobbs resigned in June. The Times Free Press reported in June that Hobbs attended only two meetings since October 2018 due switching jobs.
City Councilman Anthony Byrd, who represents District 8, told the Times Free Press in June that the process of appointing people to city boards needed to change. He was unavailable Thursday regarding the status of his recommendation to Mayor Andy Berke, who makes the appointments, to fill the position.
At Thursday's meeting, Saloon 75 Sur and its owner, Joe Munoz, also were cited for three violations after an inebriated under-age female was observed by Chattanooga police on Aug. 3. The club is located at 6127 Airways Boulevard.
Chattanooga officer John Collins testified that the customer's breathalyzer test was .19, more than twice the legal limit. Collins issued a citation for underage drinking and called a family member to pick up the 19-year-old woman.
Attorney Doug Fox and club manager Monica Delgado said the club did not dispute serving an under-aged customer, despite there being no video of the woman purchasing alcohol. Delgado said neither she, seven other employees or five security personnel observed the woman buying alcohol.
"She was probably sitting in a booth and someone was buying drinks for her," said Delgado.
Fox said capacity at the establishment is 500, and that 460 were present on Aug. 3. He said the club had a stringent process in place to identify customers under 21, and that 30 were identified that night. He said security at the door failed to property identify the woman. Delgado said J-Hall Security provides security for the club and that it had dismissed the person working the door.
Delgado said the club immediately went to a 21-plus policy and implemented a digital screening system for IDs.
Contact Davis Lundy at email@example.com.