published Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Chattanooga City Council, attorneys review laws for event halls

The Chattanooga city attorney’s office is expected to use notes from a public safety hearing to help draft or revise regulations for event halls in the next two to three weeks and report back to the City Council, Public Safety Chairman Moses Freeman said Tuesday.

Closing times, obtaining insurance for events and venues as well as inspections to venues and licensing were among the topics broached at the hearing.

“In other words, they would come into the regular flow of the entertainment business. I think the key word is regulation,” Freeman said.

Theresa Ivey, who resides in Ridgedale, said it’s not uncommon for neighbors to be awakened by gunfire or fighting near event halls. She told council members there’s not enough in local laws to regulate the venues.

“We’re looking to you to make something happen,” she said.

A couple of weeks ago the city attorney’s office began reviewing whether there was enough evidence submitted by Chattanooga police officers to go before a judge and ask for an injunction to close two event halls where three fatal shootings have occurred since April. A judge would have to determine if the venues are a public nuisance under state law.

“We hope to make a decision soon,” said City Attorney Wade Hinton.

The City Council took up the issue of special gatherings in 2010 when it passed an ordinance to regulate events. Hosts were required to obtain a permit from the city treasurer. No one has ever taken out such a permit since the law was passed, said Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd.

When police are called to shootings or disorders, property owners and business owners sometimes claim they don’t know what’s going on.

At Da Building, 1622 Dodds Ave., where a man was shot and killed outside earlier this year, the property owner lives in Virginia.

“You can’t find the owner. You can’t find the person who leased the club. You can’t find the person who set up the event,” Dodd said.

Contact Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406.

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