KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Another hearing held Monday brings a resolution one step closer in the dispute between Aramark and the City of Knoxville after being fined for selling alcohol to minors during Tennessee football games.

After three citations for underage sales in September and October, a complaint filed in October by the City of Knoxville is seeking a temporary suspension of Aramark’s permit to sell alcohol at Neyland Stadium with the potential for an outright revocation of the permit.

Under city rules, any alcohol vendor that has committed three violations over a two-year span is referred for a suspension/revocation hearing.

Aramark filed a motion on Nov. 4 seeking to strike parts of the city’s complaint.

A Dec. 19 hearing has been set for hearing officer Loretta Cravens to determine whether to allow parts of the complaint to be stricken. Cravens will also decide whether to set a final hearing to determine if the permit should be revoked, suspended, or if no further discipline is necessary.

A suspension mean that some 2023 football games would not have on-site alcohol sales.

If the permit is revoked, Aramark would not be able to apply for another permit for 10 years. Another vendor would have to wait for one year after the revocation to apply to sell alcohol at Neyland Stadium.

The city cites previous instances of violations by Aramark and unlawful conduct in and around the stadium in the initial complaint. City guidelines state, “the board shall revoke the permit of any permittee who operates or allows his establishment to be operated in a disorderly manner.”

Aramark’s motion to strike parts of the complaint argues that the business could not operate the premises in a disorderly manner since Neyland Stadium is owned and operated by the University and not Aramark.

The motion denied that Neyland Stadium or any other UT property is operated in, ‘a disorderly manner.’ It also argued that many of criminal violations cited by the city occurred outside the stadium and that previous violations by Aramark should not be considered by the hearing officer because they occurred under previous permits held by the business.

Aramark was issued seven citations for underage alcohol sales during a Garth Brooks concert at Neyland Stadium in 2019. Aramark applied for a new permit in 2020 under the SEC’s new Safe Serve Policy. According to a response to Aramark’s motion to strike parts of the complaint, the city said Aramark applied and was granted another new permit in 2021 due to “expansion of the premises.”

Attorneys for the City of Knoxville noted in the response to Aramark’s motion that other vendors in the city have had permits revoked for violations of law on their premises, such as a shooting in a parking lot or board of health violations. They also said that the city does not have to prove that the violations were related to alcohol sales, only that they occurred on the premises.

“A significant number of beer permitholders within the City are not “owners” of the premises they operate,” The city response states. “That does not absolve them for responsibility for the premises in which their patrons are drinking.”

The city also contends that not only does the hearing officer have wide latitude to consider previous violations even if they occurred under a previous permit, it argues that city rules obligate the officer to “consider the effectiveness of any sanctions previously imposed against the permittee.

Aramark has previously been issued fines and been required to submit plans on how to prevent future violations.

“In this case, the proof will show that requiring repeated submittals of remedial plans and the issuance of fines did nothing to prevent Aramark employees and representatives from continuing to sell beer to underage individuals, and this is one of the primary reasons that the City has requested more severe sanctions against the Permittee.”

City of Knoxville response to motion by Aramark motion to strike parts of their complaint

According previous remedial plans submitted by Aramark, the vendor operates over 160 points of sale for alcoholic beverages and sells an average of approximately 40,000 beverages per game.