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Larry Grohn
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Carol Berz
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Chattanooga movie theaters will soon be able to sell any brand of beer in addition to the liquor, wine and high-alcohol-content beer the state already allows them to sell.

On Tuesday, the city council voted 6-2 in favor of the ordinance sponsored by Councilman Larry Grohn.

Council members Carol Berz and Chip Henderson cast the "no" votes against the ordinance that amends the city code. Councilman Chris Anderson was away on official business, Council Chairman Moses Freeman said.

"We were already in a situation where it was perfectly legal to get a beer permit and then a wine and alcohol permit and take these into any theater you wanted, but yet you couldn't [serve the] beer," Grohn said. "So, we just needed to update our current code and get it in line with the new state ordinances."

The measure is intended to help movie theaters compete with online movie services, Grohn said.

Despite state laws governing alcohol consumption in movie theaters, beer still falls under the city's authority to regulate and state law does not extend to beer with alcohol content of less than five percent, Deputy City Attorney Phil Noblett said after the meeting.

The Tuesday night vote marked the final passage of the ordinance; it will go into effect in two weeks.

Henderson previously said he believes movie theaters should be "family friendly" and are not appropriate venues for beer consumption.

Berz said she wasn't really against beer in theaters, but did not see the need for over-regulating a matter already decided by state lawmakers.

The City Council initially dealt with the issue a month ago, but Grohn asked to defer the legislation for three weeks, describing it as a "Band-Aid" at the time.

The current version of the ordinance is shorter than the original, citing movie theater definitions as outlined by the state instead of wrangling — like the prior version did — with decades-old code language intended to prevent the sale of alcohol in conjunction with films containing nudity.

Despite the simplification of the passed version of the ordinance, Grohn insisted the delay wasn't due to messy wording.

"It was only messy because they [the city council] didn't want to go into an election season voting 'yes' for beer," Grohn said.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@times freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.

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