published Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Gambling charge brings revocation of beer license to Willow Street Inn

A bar had its beer license revoked after Chattanooga police found evidence of gambling.

The Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board unanimously voted this week to revoke the beer license to the Willow Street Inn, 1306 S. Willow St., belonging to Frederick Harden.

The key piece of evidence from a search was an illegal lottery slip found in a small trash can near the bar.

Investigators were grateful to find the slip of paper.

After three warrants since 2008, the management had installed outside cameras and patrons have to be buzzed in to enter the bar.

An undercover Chattanooga police investigator testified, "To me, it was like they were trying to hide it or get rid of it."

In a previous warrant, nearly $2,000 was confiscated and six people were arrested.

During the July warrant, 61-year-old Darrelle Lynn Robinson was arrested on charges of unlawful sale of liquor, possession of gambling records, gambling and storage of liquor for sale. Robinson, the bar manager, was convicted of unlawful sale of liquor and received a 90-day suspended sentence.

Stan Lanzo, who is representing Harden, thought the proof was weak and plans to appeal in Hamilton County Chancery Court.

"[Police] made a great leap. ... You don't know who put it there," Lanzo said.

But the slip was enough evidence for the board to revoke the license. Initially, members considered giving a three-month suspension until beer board member Kevin McKenna voiced concerns. He said the bar's previous history can be considered.

"I don't think [Harden]'s is going to change. I think [the license] should be revoked," McKenna said. "He's going to continue to gamble. He has cameras outside. This is not going to stop him. The community is going to have the same problem. ... This cat is not changing his spots."

The neighborhood is a haven for illegal activity ranging from drug deals and prostitution to break-ins and illegal gambling.

"You name it and it goes on," the undercover detective said.

Neighborhood residents showed up to voice concerns about the Willow Street Inn as well as Da Building, 1622 Dodds Ave., where a man was shot and killed outside the business earlier this year.

Da Building, owned by Dexter Staples, received a warning for holding a gathering without a special gathering permit -- the second violation issued by the board since the law changed in August. If the establishment gets one more violation, no special gatherings will be allowed for a year.

"We don't mind people running a business. They just need to be a good citizen and a good neighbor," said Gary Ball, who represents the Ridgedale Community Association.

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

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