Many years ago and shortly after my wife and I moved to Missionary Ridge, I was asked to serve on the historical committee of the neighborhood association's board. Long story short, that eventually led to being asked to be on the city of Chattanooga's Historic Zoning Commission.

It was a great lesson in civics, and I enjoyed it. For the most part.

This group oversees the four local historic districts, and primarily handles applications by homeowners in those districts who want to make improvements, changes, renovations to their homes.

For some reason, I had the impression that the role of the nine-member commission was to immediately say "no" to every request and to make things as hard as possible for homeowners. I over-exaggerate, but I have to admit I was completely wrong, and extremely impressed and glad to learn just how far the folks on the board went to make everybody happy.

I was just a regular homeowner, but the other folks were architects, home builders, educators and designers, and they used their vast experiences and knowledge to not only explain to homeowners why the Victorian-style corner brackets they found at the big box store were not appropriate for their '50s-era rancher, but they also offered advice on where they could find a better option that was right for the house and often for far less money.

I bring this up because at the last Beer & Wrecker Board meeting, member Chris Keene took a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting to plead with the bar and restaurant owners in attendance applying for permits to sell beer that they read and understand all of the laws related to the process.

He told them simply kicking someone out of the bar who'd had too much to drink was not an option.

"You have an enormous responsibility," he said.

"The worst thing you can do is throw them out. Call Uber. Call Lyft. Call a cab, but don't just turn them out on the streets of Chattanooga."

And he introduced Calandra Smith with the Hamilton County Coalition and asked that the applicants get to know her and take advantage of the information and training she can provide them and their staff about the rules of selling beer and tobacco. He made a similar, though less formal, plea at the previous meeting.

The goal, it would seem, is to be preventive rather than punitive, because literally, lives are at stake.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.


ChattanoogaNow Sections