After a flurry of activity including separate meetings with Mayor Tim Kelly and Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy, a letter sent to Kelly from residents and businesses around Station Street and a mediation, it appears a tentative settlement has been reached involving the Blue Light nightclub and the city.
The settlement stems from safety issues at the club raised by the Chattanooga Beer & Wrecker Board.
Chattanooga City Attorney Emily O'Donnell and Blue Light attorney Scott Maucere both told the Times Free Press by phone that mediation took place recently as suggested by Chancery Court Judge Jeffrey Atherton at the close of the appeal hearing in his courtroom on June 28.
Both also confirmed that the scheduled restart of the Chancery Court hearing set for July 19 has been indefinitely postponed, and both said they could not comment on specifics of the ongoing case.
Station Street letter to Chattanooga Mayor Tim KellyView
O'Donnell said if a settlement has been reached, it would have to be approved by the Beer Board during one of its regularly scheduled public meetings.
"I can't comment further, but I will when I can," she said.
A source close to the situation did not provide details, but said the tentative agreement will focus on increased safety measures.
The issues involving Blue Light and Station Street stem from six citations given to the Blue Light by the Beer Board on Nov. 4 and 18. The violations were for allowing a staff member/owner to be intoxicated on premises, serving alcohol off premises twice, failure to report a disorder and operating a disorderly place.
The nightclub appealed those citations and had part of its case heard on June 26 and 27 in Chancery Court, and was scheduled to return to Atherton's courtroom on Tuesday to hear the Blue Light's case.
Maucere said Friday the date has been postponed indefinitely.
"I can confirm that we will not continue on July 19," he said. "As council for the Blue Light, I can't comment any further."
Asked if the tentative settlement agreement might involve potential new safety measures, he said, "[Speaking] as counsel for the Blue Light, safety on Station Street is our utmost importance and a cooperative approach to safety with the bar working with the city would be a positive thing."
Station Street and the Blue Light, which is primarily a dance club that operates on weekends from about 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., have been tied to several incidents of violence in recent months including a violent incident on McCallie Avenue on June 5 and a shooting on June 19 at the corner of Station Street and Rossville Avenue. A large crowd reportedly gathered on Station Street early in the evening on June 5 before moving to the area near Mary's Bar & Lounge on McCallie Avenue, where two people were shot to death and a third died after being struck by a car.
Another 14 people were injured in the early morning incident.
Bill Lee is the owner of Gate 11 inside the Chattanooga Choo Choo complex next to Station Street. He is among nearly 25 business owners, employees and residents of the Southside who signed a letter of concern to the mayor regarding safety issues they attribute to Blue Light and the clientele that frequent the nightclub.
The letter reads in part: "On behalf of multiple businesses and landowners around the Southside, we ask that you give immediate attention and resources to the escalating violence that is a direct result of the operations of the Blue Light on Station Street and a portion of the customer base that frequents the establishment."
Lee had told the Times Free Press in a telephone interview early Friday morning that he was concerned about the "negative impression on the Southside in general" that the publicity surrounding the Beer Board citations and other incidents attributed to the Blue Light had drawn.
The letter noted business was down at several locations in and around Station Street, and Lee said it was true at his establishment. After later hearing that a tentative settlement had been reached, Lee said, "I am encouraged to hear that the city and Blue Light have made progress to finding a better mode of operation, and I hope it resolves some issues."
Michael Hardin, manager at Westbound across Station Street from Blue Light also signed the letter and met with the mayor and his staff and was less encouraged by the news of a possible settlement.
"It doesn't change anything in my mind," he said by telephone. "They are going to keep doing what they do."
He said it also sets a bad precedent for future bars that might be cited by the Beer Board.
"Basically, there shouldn't even be a Beer Board because you can just keep appealing it and the city is a joke because nothing will happen," Hardin said. "You just go to Chancery Court and they'll do what they did to Blue Light, which is nothing."
O'Donnell said the beer board is mandated by state law, and it will continue to enforce city codes around beer sales.
Maucere said, "I hope relations improve over time."