Note: This story was last updated at 9:30 a.m. August 29.
The Oak Ridge Beer Permit Board has revoked the beer permit of Lincoln’s Sports Grille.
The revocation was approved in a 4-2 vote during a special meeting on Thursday, the fifth show cause hearing for Lincoln’s.
It wasn’t immediately clear what effect the revocation, which took effect immediately, would have.
But during the hearing, a Lincoln’s consultant testified that a beer permit suspension coupled with a possible temporary state suspension of the restaurant’s liquor license for its second sale of beer to a minor could effectively shut down the business.
“The economic impact would be great,” consultant Roy McKinnon said. “It would finish Lincoln’s.”
Beer Board Chair Randy Tedford, who made the motion to revoke the permit, said he is not aware of any business that has survived five show cause hearings.
“I really hate having to do that,” Tedford said after the hearing. “It hurts that business. It could close that business. But there comes a time.”
Tedford told Lincoln’s representatives that they have to surrender their beer permit, and it will be revoked for one year. After that, someone else not currently associated with the business, which can still serve food and liquor, can apply for the beer permit.
“You cannot sell beer from this moment on,” said Tedford, who said he wanted to stress the “paramount safety of the public.”
Those who voted for the revocation included Tedford and Beer Board members Theresa Scott, Debra Solmonson, and Wendy Wiliams. Voting against it were board secretary Barton Bailey and Darren Osborne.
Board member Colin Colverson was absent.
Thursday’s show cause hearing was called after Lincoln’s sold a 16-ounce Bud Light beer to a 19-year-old on June 9 during a compliance check conducted by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Lincoln’s was one of a half-dozen businesses or organizations cited by the state in June, when the TABC checked about 30 establishments in Oak Ridge.
During a show cause hearing, the Beer Permit Board can revoke or suspend a permit, or levy fines in lieu of a suspension. Among other things, the hearings have been called after state compliance checks and after reports of fights or disturbances.
The alleged TABC violation at Lincoln’s on June 9 occurred the same day the Beer Board agreed to suspend Lincoln’s beer permit for two weeks after an earlier show cause hearing. And that timing seemed to frustrate Beer Board members.
“This offense was cited just a few hours after this board handed down a suspension to begin that night at midnight,” Tedford said. “I get the impression that: Is anyone listening?”
“The general public is fed up,” Scott said. “Lincoln’s has been called up here five times in 16 months,” twice for underage sales, she said.
“This is getting crazy,” Scott said. “It’s against the law to serve a minor.”
McKinnon, who declined to comment after the board’s revocation, cited changes made at Lincoln’s. Among them: The restaurant and bar no longer has bands, the patio has been secured, and the business has become more corporate.
But his arguments didn’t seem to convince Beer Board members.
“It would seem to me that all the efforts over the past 1.5 years have not had an effect,” Williams said.
McKinnon said there is a misperception that Lincoln’s has had a flippant attitude with regard to alcohol. But he said the server who sold the beer in June was suspended immediately for 96 hours and quit about a week later. He said she checked the state informant’s identification but made an error.
“To suggest that we’re flippant or don’t care…I’m sitting before you at 6 o’clock at night to let you know we care,” McKinnon said. “There is no one in this case who believes that what has taken place was acceptable.”
Before revoking the beer permit, Beer Board members voted unanimously on a voice vote that Lincoln’s had not shown that action should not be taken against its permit.
Bailey, who voted against the revocation, said he would have preferred to have taken action against Lincoln’s after the state meted out its punishment for the June beer sale to a minor.
Also during Thursday’s hearing, the Beer Board voted 5-1 to take no action against Oak Ridge Moose Lodge #1316, which sold alcohol, a mixed drink vodka cranberry, to a 19-year-old on June 26 after checking ID. It was the second violation at Moose Lodge for a sale to a minor during a TABC compliance check, and the second show cause hearing for the Moose Lodge.
Moose Lodge management and members said they also have made changes in the past year-and-a-half. Among them: Those who are not members can no longer enter.
“Whatever happened this last time is not going to happen again,” Moose Lodge member Randy Wishinsky said. “No one is going to get in there without a card.”
Moose Lodge Administrator Carl Smith said the bartender in that case was suspended for two weeks and put on 90 days probation.
“A mistake happened,” Smith said. “There’s no denying it.”
Osborne cast the only “no” vote against the motion to take no action against Moose Lodge.
“We’ll give you a second chance, but we will ‘hold your feet to the fire,’” Tedford told Moose Lodge members.
The Beer Board has also scheduled show cause hearings, or plans to have them, for six other businesses. Three of those businesses—Aubrey’s, Back 2 Brewski’s, and Ian’s—have a 6 p.m. hearing on Sept. 16. Hearings for three more businesses—New China Palace, Outback Steakhouse, and Riverside Grille—have not been set but they could be scheduled in October, Tedford said.
While the state’s action against Lincoln’s for the June beer sale is still pending, Moose Lodge paid a $2,000 civil penalty for its violation and agreed to a 15-day suspension of a liquor-by-the-drink license. That suspension was in effect from July 13-27.
See this earlier story for more information.