Five area stores recently failed compliance checks, leading to Ria’s Food Mart losing its license and others having theirs suspended. (Photo: Christian Newton, MGNOnline)

The Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board handed down punishments today to five area convenience stores that failed compliance checks last month.

The Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Coalition conducted several compliance checks May 15 to make sure clerks weren’t selling to minors. The CPD sent an underage buyer into the convenience stores to try to purchase beer from the clerks. 

Ria’s Food Mart, located at 804 Broad St., had their beer license revoked after failing the compliance check and a second violation of a sale to an already-intoxicated person.

According to CPD Officer John Collins, a woman who appeared intoxicated was arrested after she came out of Ria’s with a bag of beer. CPD Officer Seth Romeo said he made the decision to execute an arrest after he asked her to walk in a straight line and she needed to hold onto the building to keep her balance.

The vote to revoke Ria’s beer license came after testimonies from community leaders about loitering and excessive public intoxication that occurs on Broad Street in front of the convenience store.

“Ria’s is a blight in the heart of our city,” River City Co. President Kim White said. “We’re asking that you put the maximum penalty on this business.”

White said that Ria’s has created a slum in the heart of the city and that the beer board needs to do its part in helping clean up the community.

Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce President Bill Kilbride said it boggles his mind what he sees happening daily at Ria’s.

“People who know this city do not walk on that sidewalk,” he said. “It has had a significant impact on what is happening in the hub of this city.”

Romeo said that Ria’s has always been on their radar.

“You can go by this area any day and see public [intoxication],” he said. “Odds are they get their alcohol from [Ria’s].”

Board member Andre Harriman said he understands there is a problem in this area of the city, but said Ria’s is not the sole blame.

“It seems like there’s quite a bit of a public nuisance going on,” he said. “I still have a hard time putting all the responsibility on Ria’s.”

The board voted unanimously to revoke Ria’s beer license. The revocation went into effect immediately.

Ria’s owner was not immediately available for comment.

Mapco Express on East Third Street received a $500 fine for failing the compliance check.

The clerk did not check the buyer’s ID. According to Mapco management, the clerk has been terminated.

Mapco regional manager Kyle Berry said that its entire regional market will be retrained following this incident. He said that with Riverbend coming up he does not want something like this to happen again.

Circle K at 1005 Hixson Pike received a 15-day beer license suspension for failing the compliance check.

The clerk did not check the buyer’s ID. District manager Todd Brown said that the clerk was terminated.

Harry’s Convenience Store at 3640 Hixson Pike received a three-day beer license suspension for failing the compliance check.

The clerk said she was distraught at the time because of a phone call she had just received about a family member. She said she must have keyed in the date wrong and sold the beer.

Discount Mart at 4300 Norcross Road received a 10-day beer license suspension for failing the compliance check.

Discount Mart owner Natwarbhai Patel said he checked the ID, but mistakenly input the incorrect date into the point-of-sale system.

Harriman suggested that the entire staff be retrained on how to check IDs, including the owner.

Other news from the beer board
Jie Chen of Kuomo One applied for a beer license for his family-style Japanese restaurant at 6025 Shallowford Road. The board approved the application.

Nihavika Jiwani applied for a license to sell carryout beer at Naina Food Mart at 2413 Fourth Ave. The board approved the application.

Ken Merkel of The Read House applied for a change in ownership of its beer license. The hotel has dissolved itself from a previous management company. The board approved the application.

Jesus Esquivel applied for a change of location for Mexiville. The restaurant has recently moved from 811 Market St. back to its old location next door at 809 Market St. The application was approved.

The Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board, which meets biweekly, has the power to issue beer licenses and permits and to revoke or suspend beer licenses. 

Eric Wise is a contributing writer. He is currently attending UTC, where he is the assistant news editor for the school newspaper, The University Echo. He also serves as the alumni relations chairman for his fraternity.