KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Body camera footage from Knoxville police officers shows the first look inside Billiards and Brews as it was being cited for violating the county curfew.
The bar was cited 18 times. The body camera footage shows the final citation in progress. It was January 28 around 11:30 p.m. That’s an hour and a half after the bar should have been closed for the night at 10 p.m.
“You got me,” an employee inside the front entrance said as the first officer walked inside.
“Gee, I’ve never heard that one before,” the officer responds sarcastically.
“How are you,” the employee asked.
“Oh, ya know, tickled to be here,” the officer responded.
According to the Knoxville police public information officer, the officer who issued the final citation had been there many times.
About eight other officers pulled up outside while the first officer began the citation process with the bar owner. The body camera video is from multiple different officers showing different angles from that night.
“Oh, they put a body camera on you, did they,” the owner noted as he looked at the officer.
Not all KPD officers have body cameras yet and this was one of the first nights this officer wore his, according to the department spokesperson. They are still rolling out the new camera system.
Officers outside chatted briefly with the bouncer noting how cold it was that night. The bouncer tells them it’s much warmer inside. Inside, the 18th citation appeared to be routine for owner Richard Lawhorn.
“Am I getting two of them,” he asked the officers who had just arrived.
“No, I just didn’t realize he brought in his,” the officer responded.
“I was about to say, dang, y’all changed it up on me,” the owner said with familiarity.
Three Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission agents then show up at the bar and look around. They tell the owner he is not supposed to be serving liquor. The bar’s liquor license was suspended on January 22. The owner claimed a TABC attorney told him they were safe to serve.
“That’s not what he told me this afternoon at three o’clock,” the TABC agent responded.
The owner responds that the attorney must have changed his mind. He is given a verbal warning for the liquor violation.
A few feet away around another table, two officers questioned a security guard.
“Kinda looks like you got something right at the waist. Are you carrying a gun or anything? Are you armed,” the officer asked.
The security guard admitted he did have a gun on him. The officer then asked to see his armed security guard license from the state, but he doesn’t have it.
“You do not have it,” the officer said. “What are you doing carrying a gun in a bar without your armed security guard license?”
The security guard then tells the officer he heads to Billiards and Brews after finishing up at another bar downtown.
“They close at 10, so I needed something else and I heard that these guys were staying open until three,” the guard said.
He was given a warning and asked to put the gun in his car, which he did.
The officer then explained this to the owner who had never heard of an armed security guard license.
“I’ll check that. I did not know,” Lawhorn said.
The officer then brought up a murder that happened at the bar in December.
“When I was in here the night of the murder the manager said yeah, we just get so many people in here, and I said well you need to get some more security, so I get trying to have some people in here,” the officer said.
Before finishing up citation number 19, the owner tried to talk health board with officials.
“Let me ask you a hypothetical question. If they were to do away with the health board,” he started before his voice became inaudible on the video.
The officers make comments fully expecting to be back again, but this would be their last curfew citation.
“All right, see y’all,” one officer said as he left.
The current curfew is 11 p.m., but leaders with Knox County announced they would be extending that to midnight on February 25.
At one point, TABC had said in a complaint about Billiards and Brews, that the deadly shooting at the bar may have never happened had the owner abided by that curfew. City leaders had called the bar a risk to public safety and accused the owner of taking advantage of the pandemic.
We did reach out to the owner for this story. He said he may issue a statement through his attorney later this week.
The owner’s beer license was revoked. He cannot reapply for 10 years. Police said the bar can be open, but cannot serve alcohol. As of Wednesday, the bar was open.