One month after a large reported disturbance, the city’s deputy police chief told the owners of a popular restaurant and bar in central Oak Ridge that they need to monitor customers who are drinking and not serve people who have consumed too much alcohol.
The warning to the owners of Lincoln’s Sports Grille came during a Monday meeting of the Oak Ridge Beer Permit Board.
That board had called a show cause hearing for Lincoln’s, which is on South Illinois Avenue, after a Feb. 10 fight that reportedly started as an argument between two men over a woman and escalated into a large disturbance that required an entire shift of police officers to respond.
Oak Ridge Deputy Police Chief Alan Massengill said officers found many intoxicated people at the restaurant that night, more than the on-duty shift could handle.
“This one was way out of line,” he said.
ORPD Lt. Brad Jenkins said there were reports of fights inside the restaurant and outside in the parking lot. People were running from the diner and leaving in cars when police arrived, he said.
“About as quickly as we got there, the fighting stopped,” Jenkins said.
He said “it was very crowded” inside—he estimated more than 200 people were at the restaurant, which has a capacity of 270—and people were standing in booths and on chairs “filming the action” just after midnight that Saturday night and Sunday morning.
Scott Green and Mike Lincoln, two of Lincoln’s owners, said they thought the disturbance had been brought under control that night, but one man involved in the initial midnight argument “would not calm down” and friends started fighting.
It was reported to be mostly broken up when police arrived, and Lincoln’s shut down early. The two men who started the fight have been banned from the restaurant. Another man was arrested for public intoxication.
Massengill said Lincoln’s has a history of cooperating and calling the police when needed. There has been no prior disciplinary action against Lincoln’s. This was the only large-scale disturbance at the restaurant, Massengill said, but the problem was the level of intoxication.
During Monday’s hearing, he cited two other recent incidents, including an arrest this month of a man who was allegedly driving under the influence at 56 mph in a 40 mph speed zone. The man said he had been drinking at Lincoln’s, Massengill said.
“Now we’re starting to see the level of intoxication pick up on patrons that are in there and leaving, and not being cut off,” Massengill told Green and Lincoln. “If your staff is not cutting them off, then we’re headed for a problem.”
Green told the Beer Board, which has the power to revoke or suspend a beer permit or issue a fine, that he thinks servers at Lincoln’s do a good job monitoring customers. He outlined measures the bar currently takes to monitor customers, including checking their ages, serving chips and salsa to those who appear under the influence, and refusing to serve people who seem inebriated when they arrive at the bar.
Green said the restaurant’s servers go through Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission training, and the head bartender is an ABC trainer.
“We cut people off that appear to be highly intoxicated,” Green said. “I feel like we do a really good job with that.”
He said the police call volume at Lincoln’s is relatively low.
“We always try to watch the over-serving,” Green said. “I would hope our history would say that we’ve been pretty good with the amount of business we have.”
Massengill said the police department is comfortable with allowing Lincoln’s to continue operating as long as they start monitoring customers and cutting people off.
Green told Beer Board members that Lincoln’s needs “to tighten up on cutting people off.”
The Beer Permit Board agreed in a 6-0 vote that Lincoln’s had adequately demonstrated that the board should not take action against its permit, although the restaurant needs to file new permit paperwork to show a management change before an April 8 meeting.