published Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Chattanooga Street Tavern gets green light: LaFayette Council to allow wine, beer sales until hearing

Gary Lovelady, left, son of restaurant owner Michael Lovelady, listens to a LaFayette, Ga., City Council meeting held Wednesday that was supposed to address the banning of alcohol sales at his father's restaurant, the Chattanooga Street Tavern. After an almost two-hour delay, Mayor Andy Arnold announced that the restaurant can sell beer and wine again pending a May 9 hearing.
Gary Lovelady, left, son of restaurant owner Michael Lovelady, listens to a LaFayette, Ga., City Council meeting held Wednesday that was supposed to address the banning of alcohol sales at his father's restaurant, the Chattanooga Street Tavern. After an almost two-hour delay, Mayor Andy Arnold announced that the restaurant can sell beer and wine again pending a May 9 hearing.
Photo by Doug Strickland.
  • photo
    A sign on the Chattanooga Street Tavern, owned by Michael Lovelady, indicates Wednesday that it was closed by the city of LaFayette, Ga.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
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LaFAYETTE, Ga. — The Chattanooga Street Tavern can serve beer and wine again — at least until May 9.

That's the tentative date that a Walker County Superior Court judge will decide whether the tavern -- one of the few such business in this long-dry county -- can keep its license to pour drinks.

A crowd filled City Hall at 11 a.m. Wednesday for a City Council hearing about the tavern, which has been closed since Friday, Feb. 21, when Police Chief Benji Clift pulled its beer and wine sales permit.

However, City Council never met.

After the audience waited almost two hours, Mayor Andy Arnold appeared to say the parties agreed behind closed doors to send the matter to Superior Court.

To reach the agreement, Arnold said he sat in one room at city attorney David Gottlieb's office while tavern owner Michael Lovelady and his attorney Clifton "Skip" Patty Jr. sat in another. The city attorney shuttled between the two rooms.

The mayor said it made sense for a judge to decide the matter.

"That's what they do for a living," Arnold said.

Clift said that until the court date, he wouldn't go into detail about why he stopped beer and wine sales at the tavern.

"I really can't get into that right now," Clift said Wednesday afternoon. "He violated his pour permit."

Clift did say he got a complaint about liquor being sold at a Valentine's Day fundraiser dinner for the Northwest Georgia Arts Guild held in the Mars Theater which Lovelady owns. The theater is in the same strip of commercial buildings on Chattanooga and Villanow streets as the tavern. The buildings had been vacant for years until Lovelady bought and renovated them.

Liquor isn't allowed at fundraisers -- or anywhere outside a residence in Walker County since it's a "dry" county, Clift said.

"You can only keep liquor at your home," he said.

Lovelady said he didn't understand why what happened at the Mars Theater, which he leases to the arts guild, would affect the tavern.

"[Clift] said it was because I was selling liquor at the Mars Theater. I wasn't selling liquor at the Mars Theater [and] no liquor was being sold," Lovelady said.

"The tavern was actually 100 percent disconnected from the alcohol at the Mars," he said.

Lovelady also said, "I haven't gotten anything that tells me exactly what I've been cited for."

Walker County legalized beer and wine sales by the drink in 2010, Clift said. Pizza Hut and Twins Pizza are the only other two LaFayette restaurants that sell beer and wine.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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