State calls Knoxville bar a ‘risk to public safety’ for ignoring COVID-19 curfew, revokes liquor license

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn (WATE) — A Knoxville bar will go before the Beer Board next week in an effort to keep its beer permit after it lost its liquor license in January.

Billiards and Brews in West Knoxville is no longer licensed to serve liquor after the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission suspended the license on January 22.

TABC suspended the license for “failure to maintain law and order on their establishment” as it relates to following the City of Knoxville health ordinances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A TABC order suspending the license says the agency found that the “…Respondent poses a risk to public health, safety, or welfare” that required, “emergency action to protect public health, safety or welfare.”

Representatives for Billiards and Brews are due to appear before the Knox County Beer Board on Feb. 9, as the city is seeking to suspend the establishment’s beer license. The TABC violations are in addition to the city-issued citations.

The bar has been cited by the city 18 times since November, when the Knox County Board of Health enacted three ordinances to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those ordinances required restaurants and bars to close for on-premise consumption by 10 p.m.

TABC first issued a citation to the bar and owner Richard Lawhorn in December, for failing to maintain law and order. At that time, the bar had received seven citations from the city for violating the curfew by remaining open past 10 p.m.

TABC notes in the paperwork that the bar was first issued a warning, and then fined $1,500 after a second violation. The bar was warned a third time could lead to a liquor license suspension. Paperwork shows a signed notice of the suspension was hand-delivered to the bar on Unicorn Drive on January 22.

TABC rules hold licensees accountable for law and order on a licensed premise and require the license holder to maintain the establishment in a “decent, orderly and respectable manner in full compliance with the laws of Tennessee.

In addition to citations issued by the city, TABC also said in the complaint that a fatal shooting at the bar on Dec. 27 may not have happened had the bar abided by curfew.

“Had Respondent been properly closed by ten o’clock (10:00) p.m., the homicide may have been prevented,” the complaint states.

Billiards and Brews has renewed a liquor license each year since 2014.

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