They weren’t able to sell beer for more than a month, but an agreement reached with a city board in September, modified on Thursday, and approved by a judge on Friday allows Lincoln’s Sports Grille to resume selling the alcoholic beverage for now.
The Oak Ridge Beer Permit Board revoked Lincoln’s beer permit on August 28. The revocation went into effect immediately.
But Lincoln’s has appealed that decision and had asked that the revocation be put on hold while the legal case is pending. On September 16, the Beer Board agreed in a 5-2 vote.
The board’s agreement was initially conditioned upon a list of 13 items. One of the conditions, which would have required an owner to be present at all times, has since been removed. (The board approved the removal in a 4-0 vote on Thursday after a pair of split 2-2 votes.)
Among the remaining conditions: Lincoln’s will shift its focus to food service and sales and provide a family-friendly atmosphere—with beer and alcohol sales being secondary—and the restaurant and bar will stop selling beer and alcohol one hour before closing.
Any violation of the agreement or the rules governing beer sales would result in an automatic 90-day suspension.
On Monday, Scott Green, one of Lincoln’s owners, said the inability to sell beer since late August has had a substantial impact on the business. The restaurant and its staff have also been hurt by the bad publicity, Green said.
“It’s been a significant hit on us,” Green said.
Now, he’s hoping customers will give Lincoln’s a chance.
“We’re a good place,” Green said. “I feel like people will be pleasantly surprised.”
Lincoln’s has had five show cause hearings with the Beer Board during the past two years, the most of any Oak Ridge bar, restaurant, or organization. In court papers filed in September, Lincoln’s, represented by Oak Ridge attorney Kevin Angel, said the restaurant has been hit with a “more substantial penalty than similar establishments have faced with similar conduct.”
On Monday, Green said Lincoln’s wants to work with the Beer Board and is becoming more of a sports-oriented restaurant and less of a bar. On Monday, televisions hung high on the walls inside Lincoln’s were tuned to the San Francisco Giants-Washington Nationals baseball game and a preview of Monday night football. Lincoln’s hosts a Wednesday night show featuring Oak Ridge Wildcats football coach Joe Gaddis.
Green said Lincoln’s is the only restaurant that drug-tests employees before they’re hired and randomly drug-tests them after they’re hired.
“We want to go above and beyond,” Green said.
Lincoln’s last show cause hearing in August was called after the restaurant’s second violation for selling beer to a minor (someone under 21).
Green called it human error, saying the server was properly trained and looked at the customer’s identification but misread it. He pointed out that it was only Lincoln’s second underage sale in four years.
Lincoln’s does not want to serve to underage customers, Green said. And the owners are trying to put new measures in place, meeting with the Oak Ridge Police Department, for example, and cutting back on entertainment, and complying with the Beer Board.
“We won’t take it lightly,” Green said. “We want to be something the city is proud of.”
As of Monday, Green said, a court date hadn’t been set in the appeal of the Beer Board’s revocation of the beer permit.
Lincoln’s staff was able to start serving beer again at 4 p.m. Friday.
Between the beer permit revocation in August and the resumption of beer sales on Friday, Lincoln’s was able to sell food and alcohol and high-gravity beer, which has more alcohol by volume and is considered alcohol.
In other business, the Beer Board last month had show cause hearings for three other businesses: Ian’s Market #32 on Arkansas Avenue, Aubrey’s Inc. on South Illinois Avenue, and Back to Brewski’s on Randolph Road. After hearing explanations from a manager and two owners, the Beer Board took no action against those three businesses.
On Tuesday, October 7, the Beer Board had show cause hearings for three other businesses that allegedly sold beer to an underage person on June 9, and Oak Ridge Today will provide more information as it becomes available.