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Club owner J.T. McDaniel this week lost his appeal in Chancery Court of the beer permit revocation in May 2021 for his two neighboring nightclubs on Dodson Avenue, meaning he will not be allowed to sell beer at A Gentleman's Club or The Night Owl.

In making her judgment Monday, Judge Pamela Fleenor found that while the Chattanooga Beer Board had voted last year to revoke the beer permit of just The Night Owl, the beer permits for both clubs should be permanently revoked.

McDaniel said he had not been told of the findings when the Chattanooga Times Free Press contacted him for comment on Thursday.

"That's fine," he said. "I can live with that."

City Attorney Emily O'Donnell said in a text that any case in Chancery Court can be appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, but McDaniel said his expertise is in ready-to-wear clothing, not beer sales.

"I'm getting out of the beer business anyway," he said. "That's fine. That's life."

Ellis Smith, director of special projects for Mayor Tim Kelly's office, said the city supports the decision, given failures to follow city codes and associated shootings.

"Public safety is Mayor Kelly's top priority," Smith said, "and anyone who violates city rules and creates unsafe conditions for our residents will be held accountable."

Fleenor criticized McDaniel in her judgment, saying she found him "to be less than forthcoming, and his answers to some questions were just disingenuous."

Fleenor heard the appeal on May 6.

"The court, on May 6, 2022, also heard live from Sgt. Jason Wood, Detective Jack Crawford and Mr. Bill Glascock, chairman of the Beer Board, and found them to be credible," she wrote.

The Beer Board voted in 2021 to revoke the license of The Night Owl, an after-hours business, after records from Chattanooga police showed that officers had visited that location 31 times in 2021 for complaints, assaults, disorders, shootings and thefts.

McDaniel addressed the Beer Board as the owner of both businesses, and the board then also discussed three shooting incidents that occurred outside of the clubs, which police say occurred on Jan. 28, Jan. 31, and April 17, 2021.

McDaniel told the board then that A Gentleman's Club, which is next to The Night Owl and shares an inside door, was closed because of the pandemic during the time of the shootings. He also said that neither club was open on Jan. 28, but police body camera footage taken after the shooting showed a crowded parking lot and people coming in and out of The Night Owl.

The board also found that no one from the club used the designated landline to call the police to report the incidents, as required by city code.

The judge agreed with police reports that found that the Night Owl was well over its capacity of 49 people on the nights of the shootings. A Gentleman's Club also had a capacity of 49.

During his appeal, McDaniel told the court that his background was in merchandising and that he was learning the nightclub business.

"The court determines that his 'learning on the fly,' his inexperience and his lack of control in running the clubs has led to the shootings of four people, including the death of one victim, all within a short four-month period of time," Fleenor wrote. "The first shooting should have gotten his attention that he was operating a very dangerous place. Rather, that shooting escalated from the shooting up of vehicles to the shooting death of a human being, from all of which the court concludes his beer permits should be revoked."

The judge also concluded that the Night Owl and A Gentleman's Club, for all intents and purposes, operate as one club, and that the interior door is open to allow people to pass between the two. As a result, she determined, if the beer permit is revoked only for the Night Owl, "the dangerous and disorderly conduct will continue from A Gentleman's Club."

In another Beer Board appeal, the Blue Light's appeal of its revocation order will resume on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 before Judge Jeffrey Atherton in Chancery Court.

Atherton heard two days of testimony presented by the city on June 27 and 28, and then had to reschedule to July 19 to begin hearing the Blue Light's responses. At the suggestion of Atherton, the two sides met for mediation on July 12, and that tentative agreement was presented to and subsequently rejected by the Beer Board on July 21, sending the appeal back to Atherton's court.

The Beer Board voted on Nov. 18 to revoke the Blue Light's license after it found the nightclub to have violated six city beer codes including failure to report a disorder and operating a disorderly place. The club immediately appealed and was granted a stay and has been operating as normal since.

The previous hearings before Atherton took place days after a shooting on Station Street at 1:12 a.m. June 19 left two women with non-life-threatening injuries. The shooting took place after an argument at the Blue Light.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354. Follow him on Twitter @BarryJC.

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