published Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board hands down suspensions

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A downtown bar will be suspended from serving beer next weekend after the Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board cited it as a disorderly place.

Southern Comfort, at 511 Broad St., may not serve beer for three days beginning Aug. 9 after a 6-2 decision by beer board members.

Nearly a dozen Chattanooga Police Department officers went to the bar and some were already on standby when the bar closed at 3 a.m. June 2. A large crowd of 150 to 200 people exited onto a sidewalk and private parking lot nearby. The crowd reportedly became disruptive, yelling profanities at police.

The incident resulted in three arrests, according to officers, and Southern Comfort was cited for operating a disorderly place.

"The problem we're having with Southern Comfort is when they exit, they [patrons] go on the sidewalk and stand there," said Field Training Officer Sloan Rankhorn. "It's every single weekend."

Rankhorn said adding alcohol to the equation of a large crowd causes more problems.

Officials could not cite any local rules that define a disorderly place. However, Arvin Reingold, an attorney representing the bar, argued that Southern Comfort cannot be responsible for its patrons once they have left the bar.

"That's very clear. It's not muddled in any way," he said, citing a Court of Appeals decision.

Keith Reisman, city attorney, said the regulations don't state anything about the premises, but the operation of a disorderly place.

This violation marks Southern Comfort's fourth before the board. Previous violations include one for operating a disorderly place, which later was dismissed; selling to an incapacitated person, which resulted in a three-day beer-serving suspension; and reports of disorders, which also resulted in a three-day suspension.

Beer Board Chairman Christopher Keene said it is the board's discretion on how to discipline a bar for each violation. There are no rules that say a bar loses its license after a certain number of violations, he said.

"We try to stagger it and give them a chance," Keene said.

Another bar, Escandalo at 3712 Rossville Blvd., was cited for its fifth violation Thursday for allowing the consumption of alcohol just before 5 a.m. and not clearing tables by closing time.

In a unanimous vote, the board suspended the bar's beer license for six days beginning Aug. 10.

Police said they observed as many as eight people inside the bar and cold bottles sitting out, according to authorities.

Escandalol previously had been issued a written warning for reports of disorders, and a three-day serving suspension for employees drinking on the premises, selling to a minor and litter on the premises.

Lawrence Mills, owner of Westside Grill, at 2503 Westside Drive, chose to turn in his beer license after police learned patrons were bringing their own liquor to the bar and gambling was taking place on the premises.

"I just made a mistake," he said Thursday, adding that he closed the bar June 16.

The board unanimously accepted his license.

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