This story was updated on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 at 4:42 p.m. with additional information.
Would you like an IPA or a California chardonnay with your apple buttermilk biscuits and fried chicken dinner?
Cracker Barrel, long heralded as the go-to place for after-church meals on Sundays and the place to get breakfast anytime plans to add beer and wine to its menu here — if the Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board approves its application — across the state, and eventually across the country.
Tayo Atanda with Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, the attorney for the Cracker Barrel restaurants on Shallowford Road and Birmingham Highway, told the Chattanooga Beer Board on Thursday that the family-style restaurant chain plans to begin selling beer and wine in stores across Tennessee on Oct. 6.
Established in 1969 in Lebanon, Tennessee, Cracker Barrel and its affiliates operate 660 company-owned Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations in 45 states, including four restaurants in Hamilton County and other Cracker Barrel outlets nearby in Ringgold, Dalton, Calhoun, Cleveland, Kimball, Athens and Fort Payne.
The applications were postponed, however, after Officer John Collins with the Chattanooga Police Department regulatory bureau said at the meeting that the two local stores had not been issued building permits yet. The stores have new owners and were applying for new beer licenses under those owners.
Atanda told the board that the family-style restaurant chain plans to begin selling beer and wine in stores in Tennessee on Oct. 6, and said staff training needed to begin immediately and asked the board to grant the license under the assumption that the permits would be granted "very soon" as the parent company hoped to roll out the beer and wine offerings across the state on the same day.
It was also learned during the meeting via an email sent to city attorney Melinda Foster that the Cracker Barrel on Shallowford Road had some incomplete paperwork regarding its taxes with the state.
Cracker Barrel tested the alcohol concept at 20 locations in Florida and Atanda said Cracker Barrel locations across Tennessee will be the second state in the nation to offer beer and wine.
He said the early results have been positive and added that alcohol will only be offered in the restaurant areas, and not in the retail sections of the stores. The Times Free Press reached out to Cracker Barrel corporate offices and was told the chain was revising its media statement on the topic, and would provide it when it was completed.
Atanda also represented six other local restaurants applying for licenses to sell beer at the Thursday meeting. They were the Big River Grille and Brewing Works stores on Broad Street and Hamilton Place Boulevard, the Old Chicago Taproom locations at Hamilton Place and Northgate Mall and the Logan's Roadhouse locations at Northgate and on Cummings Highway, as well as the Cracker Barrel stores on Shallowford Road and Birmingham Highway. Each was previously owned by Craftworks, which filed for bankruptcy in March, and has new owners applying for new beer licenses.
Old Chicago and Logan's Roadhouse in Northgate both had similar building permit issues and the Big River downtown location, which was applying for manufacturer and distributor, consumer carryout and caterer's beer licenses, had an issue with its catering request. Foster pointed out that it had not yet been granted a caterer's license from the state, and therefore the local board could not grant a beer license for catering. It approved the other downtown Big River licenses.
The cases in question were moved to the end of the agenda, where several members of the board, including Chairman Dan Mayfield, said they were hesitant to set a precedent by allowing a "big giant company" to be granted a license without proper permits.
"If a mom-and-pop owner comes before us, they are going to say, 'You did it for Cracker Barrel, why won't you do it for me?'" Mayfield said.
After some discussion and a quick roll call to determine availability, the board voted to hold a special session on Sept. 28 at 9 a.m. via Zoom to hear the case. It also voted to require that Atanda's clients pay for the required court reporter and the cost of the legal notice in the newspaper announcing the meeting.
City Zoning Inspector Randy Ridge also advised Atanda to remind his clients that it was their responsibility to call the building inspectors office and to follow up on the process, "otherwise we are right back where we are on Sept. 28."
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.