KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Taking advantage of the situation — that’s how the city of Knoxville is describing Billiards and Brews’ actions after they chose to stay open past the Knox County Board of Health’s curfew more than a dozen times.
After a six-hour hearing, Billiards and Brews owner Richard Lawhorn must now wait an additional 24 hours to hear what consequences his bar will face.
The bar’s beer permit is on the line. There are quite a few factors that are being taken into account, including several curfew complaints and a deadly shooting that happened in front of the bar on Dec. 27.
Seven witnesses testified during the hearing. Representatives from both Billiards and Brews and the City of Knoxville asked questions about the 18 citations given to the bar since the Knox County Board of Health put a curfew in place last year.
One of those witnesses was Knoxville police sergeant John Coward who wrote most of those citations. He says the 911 center has gotten more and more calls about Billiards and Brews in the past few months.
“At any place, we’re not gonna have any problems out of they are not going to have this many calls. Looking into the calls, we’re getting calls about fights, calls about fights, and calls about curfews. Of course, we can’t forget about the shooting that occurred in December,” Coward said.
Another witness, Sgt. Matthew Gentry said one night on a call to the bar, the manager in charge asked him to write a citation.
“I asked him at one point in time while we were discussing this what his capacity was because of how many people were there and how crowded the parking lot was. He didn’t know and at that point in time I told him that I could call the fire marshal and have him come down. He asked me again if I would just issue the citation,” Gentry said.
When asked about the citations, bar owner Richard Lawhorn repeatedly cited the 5th amendment — refusing to answer the questions.
After 18 violations and a murder outside of the bar, the city is asking whatever the outcome, immediate action is taken.
“The whole reason we’re here is because the permittee is ignoring the laws that are in place. We have rushed this hearing because we have a pandemic and a public health emergency so whatever your decision is, we would ask that it be immediate,” said Alyson Dyer, representative for the City of Knoxville.
A decision will be made Wednesday, Feb 10. The bar is facing a temporary suspension of its beer permit and possibly a one thousand dollar fine per citation.