published Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Though required in Chattanooga, no permits issued for event hall ‘gatherings’

Cars are parked outside the 2510 E. Main St. event hall. Several shootings have made the entertainment spots on Main and Dodds Avenue a dangerous place to be.
Cars are parked outside the 2510 E. Main St. event hall. Several shootings have made the entertainment spots on Main and Dodds Avenue a dangerous place to be.
Photo by Tim Barber.

What is a special gathering?

Chattanooga defines a special gathering as any event that has 50 or more people who have paid a fee to attend and which serves alcohol past 11 p.m. Permits are required for gatherings that meet the criteria. A violation of a city ordinance results in a $50 fine, according to state law.

Source: City of Chattanooga

Chattanooga special gathering permit application
Chattanooga special gathering permit application

Though Chattanooga adopted a rule in 2010 requiring people hosting “special gatherings” to buy a $30 permit, city records show not a single permit has been issued.

The permit requirement applies to parties at which admission is charged, more than 50 people attend and alcohol is served past 11 p.m.

Some local residents have raised the permit issue over killings and shootings at event halls on East Main Street and Dodds Avenue. Three people have been shot to death since April.

“It’s great to have ordinances and regulations, but if you don’t enforce them, there’s no use having them,” said Gary Ball, former president of the Ridgedale Community Association.

It’s unclear how many events in the city should be obtaining the permits.

“The administration is addressing it by reviewing our different ordinances and seeing what can be done,” said Keith Reisman, assistant city attorney.

When Mayor Andy Berke’s administration was contacted about the permits, spokeswoman Lacie Stone said, “We’ll certainly look into it.”

Dexter Staples, owner of Emotion Event Hall, also called Da Building, at 1622 Dodds Ave., said not all of the events hosted at his business serve alcohol.

“I want to see the violence in the city stop. Period. If I choose not to open up for a whole month, like I have before, that’s still not going to stop the violence,” he said. “It’s not going to stop anyone from running around at 2 o’clock in the morning. ... Targeting the event halls is not the issue. If you take away what little people have left to do in Chattanooga of different cultures, there’s going to be a bigger issue.”

Staples said security is provided at events either by the patrons renting the space or his staff.

Since 2010, police have been called more than 100 times to Staples’ hall and the other venue at 2510 E. Main St. Officials have said the calls don’t meet the threshold to shut down either location.

On July 5, a 21-year-old was killed outside of Staples’ business just before 5 a.m. The party inside had ended hours before, Staples said.

Ball said he hopes police will be able to start checking on the venues for permits during events.

“The only thing that has brought this back to the table is death,” Ball said.

If someone chooses not to apply for a permit, it’s unclear how city staff would know about it or try to enforce it. State law dictates that violating a city ordinance results in a $50 fine.

“It’s a very simple process. If these event halls are going to operate aboveboard, [Police] Chief [Bobby] Dodd can figure out within his office who needs to be notified,” Ball said.

Dodd could not be reached for comment Friday. In a previous interview, he said there should be a 3 a.m. closing time across the board for bars, event halls or other entertainment venues.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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