The Chattanooga Beer & Wrecker Board on Thursday issued a series of fines involving an event organizer who lacked required permits for two parties — one of which was attended by a mayoral candidate with oversight responsibilities for the venue.
The board took action on two incidents involving Ladell Careathers for staging the parties without a special gathering permit.
Dr. Elenora Woods, a Chattanooga mayoral candidate, was at one of the events and represents the Alton Park Development Corp. The company oversees the Chattanooga Civic Center at Mountainside, where one of the parties was held. The corporation was fined by the beer board Thursday, too.
Careathers promoted the party on Feb. 16, 2020, at the civic center as a scholarship fundraiser.
Officer John Collins told the board that while Careathers applied for a special gathering permit, none was issued. Collins stressed that applicants are told repeatedly that "they do not have a permit until they have one in their hand."
City attorney Melinda Foster said a permit is required if one of four things is involved with an event: Any event that involves an admission charge, alcohol, 50 or more people and/or continues after midnight requires the permit. Collins pointed out the party checked all four boxes. He added that Careathers also did not have a security plan, nor did he hire a licensed security staff.
Careathers did have a permit from the fire marshal limiting capacity at 100 people. Officers on the scene of the party counted 226 college-aged people leaving the party and found beer and liquor bottles inside the facility space.
Woods said that alcohol was expressly forbidden at the event and that if more than the 100 people were allowed in by code were there, "they came in through a side door."
Things became heated between Woods and Officer Collins, with Woods demanding to see photo or video evidence of the crowd and alcohol.
"Stop making things up," she said.
Collins had noted earlier that police did have video evidence, but said he believed the sworn testimony of his officers was enough and that he didn't think the board needed to sit through the 14-minute video.
After the heated exchange and a short recess, video taken from police body cameras backed up the officers' assertions. The board voted unanimously to sustain the violation against Careathers and fined him $50.
The penalty was Careathers first strike, meaning he cannot promote, stage, produce or be associated with any special gatherings in the city for one year.
Alton Park Development Corp. now also has one strike against it and was fined $25. If it gets a second strike within a year, it will not be able to hold special gatherings for one year, according to Foster.
Careathers received a second strike and a $25 fine for also failing to get a special gatherings permit for another fundraiser he staged on Aug. 20 at the Inversion Circus Arts & Performance Center. Police were called to the scene after gunshots were fired outside of the facility around 12:45 a.m. and found a crowd inside and alcohol.
Careathers told the board the facility's owner, Jen Keehn, had told him she had a permit to sell beer, which would supersede the need to get a permit.
No such record was found.
Collins told the board the delay in bringing the first case to them was because he could not track down Careathers until recently. He added that Inversion had not yet been issued a violation for the same reason, but that one was forthcoming.
In other business, the board issued a seven-day or $1,000 fine against Brew & Cue on Rossville Boulevard for failure to report a fight or public disorder.
Brew & Cue was fined in regard to an incident on Feb. 4 involving customers who reportedly got into a fight after a man pinched the rear-end of a female customer. After her boyfriend stepped in, things escalated and several people were asked to leave and a fight reportedly broke out in the area behind the bar.
The boyfriend sustained serious injuries and was taken by his girlfriend to the hospital, where police were called. Bars and restaurants with city beer permits are required to immediately report all fights and public disorders inside and outside of their buildings. Tommy Lee Holland Jr. with Brew & Cue said he did not call because he didn't see the fight or anybody outside of the bar when he went to check.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.