The cityâ€™s beer board ended an unusual string of hearings for local restaurants and bars this year by taking no action in its last two meetings. Most of the hearings were called after establishments sold beer to a minor during a state sting in March, but a few were related to bar fights.
The final show cause hearing, held Monday, was called after a Nov. 2 fight at Lincolnâ€™s Sports Grille on South Illinois Avenue. The fight started after a highly intoxicated North Carolina man who had refused to pay his bar bill â€œcame afterâ€ a male acquaintance who volunteered to cover his tab, the restaurant manager and police officers said.
The previous two show cause hearings in November were for Aubreyâ€™s and Ruby Tuesday, which both sold beer to a minor during a March 18 compliance check by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The two restaurants were among seven establishments cited for selling alcohol to a minor after that sting. The other five were Applebeeâ€™s, Hacienda DeGollado, Hidalgo, Lincolnâ€™s, and Moose Lodge No. 1316.
The Beer Board took no action against Aubreyâ€™s, Lincolnâ€™s, or Ruby Tuesday after hearing from business owners and managers in November and December.
The show cause hearings, which have frustrated some business owners and managers this year, can lead to beer permit suspensions or revocations, or other punishments. But most of the bars and restaurants slapped with suspensions avoided them by meeting certain conditions.
The last to have a suspension, the Moose Lodge, lost its beer permit for seven days in October.
Daniel Humphreys, Moose Lodge governor, said the bartender who served the alcohol was terminated. Lodge representatives said they had already paid a $2,000 state fine, and the temporary shutdown of the community service organization accomplished nothing. Instead, it hurt the community, they said, and the state fine hurt the Special Olympics, Humphreys said.
They pointed out that they were punished while Hacienda DeGollado, a for-profit business that appeared at the same show cause hearing in October, was not.
But Beer Board members said the Moose Lodge had not followed rules and, with no objections, agreed that the organization had not shown why the board should not take action, said Tammy Dunn, Oak Ridge senior staff attorney and Beer Board liaison.
Meanwhile, the board agreed in a 3-2 vote that Hacienda DeGollado had shown cause. Among other things, the business was sending employees through training and discussing the rules with its workers every day.
Dunn said the beer sale to a minor was the only incident at Hacienda in six years, and it was made by a new employee.
On Monday, Oak Ridge Police Department Deputy Police Chief Alan Massengill told the Beer Board that Joseph Russell Caudill, 34, of Midland, N.C., was arrested and charged with public intoxication and theft of services after the Nov. 2 fight at Lincolnâ€™s.
Massengill said Caudill was highly intoxicated when police arrived. Lincolnâ€™s staff said Caudillâ€™s behavior was not consistent with earlier visits or the few drinks he had Nov. 2: a Long Island Iced Tea and a Dirty Bong Water.
â€œHeâ€™s not ever been a problem,â€ Lincolnâ€™s manager Lisa Green said. The staff did not expect that Caudill would start a fight with the person trying to pay his tab, she said.
â€œIt never appeared that that was the direction it was going,â€ Green said.
With no opposition, the Beer Board agreed that Lincolnâ€™s had shown adequate cause why the board should not take action against the sport barâ€™s permit.
Although the incident wasnâ€™t as bad as it had first seemed, â€œWe donâ€™t like to see them at all,â€ board secretary Barton Bailey said.
Scott Green, a Lincolnâ€™s owner, said the restaurant has hired a 30-year restaurant consultant to help prevent the bar from appearing before the Beer Board again next year. It was Lincolnâ€™s third show cause hearing this year.
â€œWe want to be proactive,â€ Scott Green said.
Lincolnâ€™s also avoided an earlier one-week permit suspension approved by the board in September. That suspension followed the March sting by the TABC. Lincolnâ€™s avoided the suspension by documenting that its servers and bartenders are certified by the commission, Dunn said.
During the November hearing, Aubreyâ€™s and Ruby Tuesday outlined the actions theyâ€™ve taken, and the punishment they had already received, after employees served Bud Light beer to a minor during the state sting in March. Among the punishments: Ruby Tuesday paid a $1,500 fine, TABC Special Agent Derrick Dalton said.
The restaurants cited a range of measures theyâ€™ve taken since then, including hiring a â€œmystery shopperâ€ to monitor compliance with ID checking requirements, sending employees to training classes, and terminating those who donâ€™t follow certain identification-related policies.
With no opposition, the Beer Board agreed on voice votes to not take action against either establishment.
Two other businesses that had faced possible beer permit suspensions earlier this year were able to avoid them by complying with the Beer Boardâ€™s orders. Applebeeâ€™s Neighborhood Bar and Grill on Oak Ridge Turnpike paid a $2,500 civil penalty in lieu of a five-day suspension for its second sale of beer to a minor in a three-year period. And Back 2 Brewskiâ€™s at Grove Center paid a $1,000 penalty and had to show that its employees and owner were trained in alcohol awareness to avoid a one-week suspension.
Back 2 Brewskiâ€™s had been the scene of an April 14 fight involving two men, including one who police said was very intoxicated.
Hidalgo did not have a show cause hearing after the March sting because the location was closing, Dunn said.
Note: This story was updated at 1:11 p.m. Dec. 15.