The beer board Thursday dealt with cases involving restaurants that hadn’t paid taxes, and members also penalized two local businesses for other violations.
“We’ve had a problem in the city getting establishments to pay their liquor-by-the-drink tax,” assistant city attorney Keith Reisman said at the meeting. “If you don’t pay the state, they can close you down. We don’t have that ability. We do have the ability to enforce city ordinances.”
Some businesses had been two or four years late in payment, officials said.
In the past, businesses that didn’t pay their taxes went before a city judge, but procedures have recently changed. Now the beer board will likely take up these kinds of issues quarterly, officials said.
Several businesses—Ceniza, La Pachanga and Sekisui—were on the agenda for violations involving late tax payments.
By the time of the Thursday morning meeting, Ceniza and La Pachanga had paid up and members dismissed both those cases.
Sekisui, who didn’t have a representative present, received a 10-day suspension for the violation by a unanimous vote.
Sky Zoo received two different suspensions for separate violations.
The first incident involved allegations that someone from Sky Zoo served a woman who was already intoxicated. A police officer testified that he pulled her over and she said she’d come from the club.
In a past meeting, beer board members wanted evidence to show she was intoxicated from alcohol and not high from marijuana, which the police officer said he smelled in her car.
Officials had been waiting on a blood alcohol test to come back, and results showed the woman had a .22 blood alcohol level, an officer testified. The legal limit is .08.
“It’s reasonable for us to infer that the people at Sky Zoo were serving her alcohol,” board member Trevor Atchley said.
Another board member Andre Harriman questioned whether officials should trust the woman because she was intoxicated when she said she’d been at Sky Zoo.
“Usually drunks are very honest,” chairman Ron Smith said before the board approved a five-day suspension.
The second Sky Zoo incident involved a fight at the establishment and the protocols for reporting that sort of incident to police.
Business owners are required to call and report incidents, such as fights, so authorities can investigate.
Although the Sky Zoo owner did call the police, he didn’t say there was a fight, according to audio played during the meeting. He said he’d kicked people out and needed to get that on the record.
“This is one of the few provisions in the beer code where it places a mandatory obligation,” Atchley said.
The board voted to impose either $250 fine or a two-day suspension, which some members said they thought was a light sentence.
Forbidden City owner Jia Pan appeared before the board because an employee served a minor during a check by the Tennessee Alcohol and Beverage Commission.
Pan had already served a self-imposed suspension of beer sales so the board didn’t impose any additional penalty, but members did tell Pan he needed to make sure he trained his employees more thoroughly.
“You’re not showing us that you’re properly trained,” Harriman said.