A hearing officer on behalf of the Knoxville Beer Board revoked a bar’s beer permit for violating COVID-19 curfew mandates. The bar, Billiards and Brews, had accrued 18 curfew violations up to that point. The hearing officer, Gerald Gulley, issued the decision following a special hearing on Tuesday. According to the Knoxville City Code, businesses can’t apply for another permit for ten years after it has been revoked.
In the opinion, Gulley asserted that the city’s requested relief to suspend the bar’s beer permit for 75 days minimum and enforce fines per violation wasn’t going far enough. He cited the city code’s note that disorderly manner of operations necessitated the revocation of a beer permit, and declared that Billiards and Brews’ failure to heed curfews aligned with that standard of punishment.
“[C]onsidering the numerous occasions of curfew violations by the Permittee […] your Hearing Officer believes that these multiple instances of deliberate and willful disorderly conduct – along with the violation of Section 4-32(b) […] all of which have shown by a preponderance of evidence – justify revocation of the Permittee’s beer permit,” wrote Gulley.
Gulley also noted that one of the issues listed by the city in its non-compliance complaint – the shooting of a person – bore no weight in his decision due to “insufficient proof.”
Last fall, the city imposed a 10 p.m. curfew with the requirement for restaurants, clubs, and bars to close at 11 p.m. to customers except for food pickup or carryout. The regulation prohibited any on-premises consumption of food and drink. In mid-November, the Knoxville City Council adopted an ordinance clarifying that any beer permit holders had to comply with local executive orders.
Dr. Patrick O’Brien with the Knox County Board of Health testified during the hearing to confirm the adoption of the regulations. As The Tennessee Star reported previously, the Knox County Commission has been wrestling with a decision to dissolve the board of health’s powers, and is expected to revisit a final vote on the matter at the end of April.
The Star reached out to city spokespersons regarding the evidence supporting Mayor Indya Kincannon’s assertion that the bar’s failure to follow curfew put the community in “greater danger.” Deputy Director of Communications Eric Vreeland didn’t offer support for Kincannon’s remarks.
“Testimony during Tuesday’s hearing from Knoxville police officers was that the 18 citations issued by officers to the bar owner or managers on duty since November was a record for the most in recent memory,” stated Vreeland.
Vreeland also attached a copy of Gulley’s opinion, which didn’t contain specific evidence supporting Kincannon’s statements, either.
Two other establishments under scrutiny for curfew violations – Paul’s Oasis, another bar, and Club XYZ, a gay nightclub – received more lenient decisions. Paul’s Oasis received a 60 day suspension on its beer permit and a $7,000 fine, and the board postponed its hearing with Club XYZ to work on a mutual resolution.
Billiards and Brews has the option to appeal the decision to either the Knox County Chancery Court or the Knox County Circuit Court.
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