The Chattanooga Beer & Wrecker Board revoked the license of J.T. McDaniel's Night Owl nightclub at 830 Dodson Avenue Thursday after hearing three separate cases involving shootings in the club's parking and/or inside within the last five months.
The club had been cited in April of this year for failure to report an incident at the location in March. The board suspended beer sales at the location for seven days after the incident. City code allows for the revocation of a beer license if a location is found in violation of rules twice within a 12 month period.
Two of the violations happened in January but were not heard until police could gather more information and the board could meet in person because of the need to include video evidence, which was not easily done virtually.
Complicating matters for the board was the fact that A Gentlemen's Club, which is also owned by McDaniel is adjacent to The Night Owl and actually shares a common interior door. Both have an occupancy of 49 people each, and city Beer Officer John Collins told the board that until looking into the current cases further, he and fellow officers had for years thought the two were one club.
The board was asked to determine whether to include the two as one or separate operations and therefore heard each of the three cases separately at the suggestion of city attorney Melinda Foster. She said after the meeting they were also heard separately in case McDaniel appeals the outcome, which he is allowed to do.
The first case occurred in the early morning hours of Jan. 28 when officers who were near the club heard gunshots in the parking lot of the club just before midnight and responded where they found four spent bullet casings and two shot-up vehicles.
The report also included testimony from a security guard who was nearly shot while standing between the two vehicles.
McDaniel told the board the club isn't open on Thursday nights and therefore, the report must be incorrect. He said he is solely responsible for what happens at the club and that he would have known if there had been a special event there that night.
Video from responding officers from the evening in question showed a crowded parking with people exiting the Night Owl front door and a bright red "Open" sign next to it. No video of the interior of the two locations was taken that night, but the board voted to suspend the licenses of both locations for 30 days each.
The second incident occurred on Jan. 31 when officers witnessed a vehicle running stop signs and red lights on Holtzclaw near Third Street and pulled the car over. A person in the vehicle had been shot and was transported to Erlanger where he later died.
Three witnesses in the car told police he had been shot at 830 Dodson Avenue. Homicide Inspector Zack Crawford showed the board video taken from a street camera near the location that showed dozens of cars not only the parking lot in front of the two locations but along the city streets and adjoining businesses, and it showed people leaving the club as late as 3:25 a.m. City code requires that all establishments licensed to sell beer and their parking lots must be empty by 3 a.m.
Crawford and Collins told the board no one from the club called 911 to report a disturbance as required by code. Crawford also noted that a gentleman at the club identified himself as the person responsible for booking events there. Collins noted that only people with proper licenses to work security employed by licensed security organizations are considered legal to work security.
None of the people who identified themselves as security personnel at either club are officially licensed, he said.
McDaniel acknowledged that he does have a working relationship with a person who books and promotes events there and that they split the door and McDaniel keeps the sales revenue.
When asked if the person had told him there was to be a special event, McDaniel said, "He must have."
McDaniel told the board he didn't believe he should or could be held responsible for what people do outside of his club. He also offered to shut down The Night Owl and focus just on A Gentlemen's Club, which he said had been closed since the pandemic hit.
A motion by Vince Butler to give The Night Owl another 30-day suspension to run consecutively with the previous suspension passed.
The third violation occurred on April 17 and involved a fight and shooting inside the club. Responding officers did enter the club on this occasion, and even though the door between the two was open, there was no video evidence that customers had been inside A Gentlemen's Club, a point Butler made while making his proposal to revoke the Night Owl license.
The revocation means that McDaniel can no longer sell beer at 830 Dodson Avenue, and that any other person who wants to sell beer there must wait 12 months before applying. Several board members strongly urged McDaniel to limit his beer sales to A Gentlemen's Club, hire licensed security personnel, monitor his parking lots as well as the inside of his club and to limit capacity to 49 people as required by code.
The revocation of the license is effective immediately, according to Foster, but McDaniel can appeal the decisions to Chancery Court and ask for a stay while the case is heard.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.