published Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke tackles event hall safety

This is a building at 2510 E. Main St. that houses an event hall that served as a backdrop to a news conference by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke today.
This is a building at 2510 E. Main St. that houses an event hall that served as a backdrop to a news conference by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke today.
Photo by Dan Henry.
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This story is featured in today's TimesFreePress newscast.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke today took direct aim at event halls, where numerous shootings, including several homicides, have taken place, with new legislation aimed at strengthening regulations and imposing "clear consequences" for operators who violate them.

"We know that event halls, like the one behind me, operate without regulations," the mayor said as he stood in front of an event hall known as Boo Coo's on East Main Street. "We know they are repeatedly the location of violence and we must do everything we can to make them safe for the neighborhood and city as a whole."

Berke's plan will change an existing ordinance that has not applied to event halls in the past. The revised ordinance will require the owner or operator of an event hall or individual who organizes an event to get a special gathering permit if the event:

— Continues past midnight;

— Charges a fee of any kind;

— Has alcohol present on the premises;

— Is attended by 50 or more people is held at a facility with an occupancy capacity of 50 or more.

The new legislation also adds some safety and noise measures that apply to other late-night venues. Event halls must:

— Close at 3 a.m.;

— Report all fights and disturbances to the Chattanooga Police Department;

— Submit a detailed security plan before obtaining a permit.

"Safety at event halls has been an issue for years," Police Chief Bobby Dodd said in a news release. He said the mayor's plan gives his department the tools needed to do the job policing these venues.

"As soon as this plan is approved by the [city] council, we will be able to enforce this ordinance and hold accountable those individuals who in violation of it."

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.

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