Beer Board Hearing

September 11, 2008, 6:00 p.m. Town Hall

The Nolensville Beer Board meeting was opened at 6:05 p.m. with Mayor Beth Lothers, Aldermen Jimmy Alexander, Tommy Dugger and Ken Thomas present and Alderman Joe Curtsinger absent. Staff present was Counsel Bob Notestine, Police Chief Paul Rigsby and Town Recorder Cindy Lancaster. 3 citizens were present.

Permit holder, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Wheeler of Wheeler’s Coast In Market, located at 7045 Nolensville Road were in attendance.

The meeting began with Mayor Lothers stating this was a Hearing with the Board of Mayor and Aldermen operating in the capacity as the Beer Board. Counsel Notestine stated that the Beer Ordinance has been in place for sometime, although last year ordinance #07-15 which addresses off-premise consumption was passed. He noted that it is known as the “Vendors Act”. Counsel Notestine added that this ordinance states that if clerks have obtained training they are treated differently from clerks that have opted not to obtain training. Mr. Wheeler stated that he had not been through the training. Counsel Notestine said that if the permit holder is found in violation of the ordinance the Beer Board may revoke or suspend their license or they may impose a civil penalty. He stated that the penalty could not exceed $2,500. Counsel Notestine said that suspending license would mean the license would be canceled for a period of time and to revoke would be to totally remove. He noted that this Board would be acting in a judicial capacity. Counsel stated that once this Board hears the information they will then have the authority to make the decision.

Chief Rigsby stated that he submitted a report in writing to the Board. The Chief added that he did not feel this was an intentional or a malicious act on Mr. Wheeler’s part. Alderman Alexander asked when the Chief conducted the sting, were there any indications that this had happened before. Chief Rigsby stated that his office had complaints of teens being able to purchase beer, although it was at a different store. He stated that Mr. Wheeler’s business was not a location that had a complaint. Chief Rigsby stated that during the sting the location that had a previous complaint requested identification from the informant. Chief Rigsby stated that in the spirit of fairness they went to every off-premise permit holder in Nolensville, in addition to the feed mill.

Alderman Dugger noted that Williams Grocery was not on the list that the Chief had distributed. Chief Rigsby stated that this store appeared to be closed. He added that the lights were off and there was no activity in the building.

Mayor Lothers asked the Wheelers if they had anything to add. Mr. Wheeler said he did not know when it happened. He said that he received a letter last year stating he had done everything he was suppose to in regards to selling. Alderman Dugger asked Chief Rigsby if he went in and talked to Mr. Wheeler after the purchase was made. Chief Rigsby stated that he did not. Mr. Wheeler said that normally customers will put their money with an ID on the counter and he takes the money. He added that he was 82 years old and does not see as well as he use to.

Mr. Wheeler showed the Board a letter that he had received from the State. Mayor Lothers read the letter and stated that it was from the Tennessee Agriculture Department in regards to the sell of tobacco products. Mr. Wheeler said that the identification was verified during that particular incident. Mrs. Wheeler noted that most of the Board did not know them personally and she did not care anything about selling beer. She added that they ran the store several years ago and did not sell it at that time. Mrs. Wheeler noted that they did not sell it until they had to repossess the store from the previous tenant.

Mayor Lothers asked what they could put in place to give the Board assurance that beer would not be sold again to a minor. Mr. Wheeler stated that he did not drink, but if a man is old enough to vote and old enough to get shot at then he should be old enough to buy a beer. Alderman Dugger stated that is not the law and this Board must enforce the law.

Alderman Thomas asked if it was possible, since there are always two clerks at the store, if a customer purchases beer the other clerk could verify the license. Mrs. Wheeler said that she always asked for identification.

Counsel Notestine stated that most stores ask for everyone’s identification. He further noted that when this law was changed it states that if the clerks are trained the penalty will be considerably less than if they are not trained.

Mr. Wheeler said that his establishment had a lot of Spanish and he accepted the Spanish and American identification. Mayor Lothers said that she had spoken with someone at the State and this is a fairly new law. She added that it sounds that Mr. Wheeler is not refuting that this did happen, although it has not happened often.

The Board closed the meeting at 6:35 p.m. to have an attorney client privilege session. The opened meeting reconvened at 6:46 p.m.

Mayor Lothers stated that the Board is not unsympathetic, but with a beer permit the permit holder must abide by the law. She stated that the clerks must verify everyone’s identification. She noted that the Board could suspend the beer license up to six months and in lieu of that a penalty of $1,250 may be imposed. Mayor Lothers added that the Board would like to encourage their establishment to obtain training. She notified Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler that if there was a second offense the Board would not hesitate to revoke their license for three years. Counsel Notestine noted that the Board had the authority to impose up to $2,500 in penalties.

Alderman Thomas made a motion to recommend that the beer license be suspended for six (6) months or in lieu of a civil penalty of $1,250.00 to be paid in 7 days. Alderman Dugger seconded and he then asked the Wheelers if they understood the motion. Alderman Thomas reiterated the motion.

Mr. Wheeler asked if they would pick the beer up and take it out. Counsel Notestine said that he would need to contact the beer distributor and that would be their decision. Mrs. Wheeler said that she would give up her beer for six months before paying $1,250.

There was no other discussion and the vote was taken with the motion passing unanimously. Counsel Notestine noted that they could obtain their licenses in six (6) months. Mrs. Wheeler stated that they hoped to have the business sold within six months.

Mayor Lothers noted that the Town could obtain the information so that their clerks could attend the responsible vendors training. Alderman Dugger stated that for clarification, should the Wheeler’s lock the doors to the beer or how should this be handled. Counsel Notestine said that the beer should be removed, the permit should be surrendered, and a sign should be made that states beer is not sold at that location.

Chief Rigsby noted that written information was before this Board noting that property owner Mr. Darin Scheff, where Uncle Bud’s Catfish operated, was cited for a criminal offense to appear in General Sessions Court for selling beer without a permit.

Alderman Dugger noted that the first Friday of his festival he came to Town Hall and asked Cindy about a permit. He then came to his office and said that Cindy was not sure. Alderman Dugger said that he told him that was a Counsel question and Mr. Scheff stated that is what Cindy said. Recorder Lancaster stated that she had told Mr. Scheff that he would have to go before the Beer Board to obtain a beer license.

Chief Rigsby stated that the next weekend the sign that stated “beer” was blacked out by tape. Counsel Notestine stated that when it comes before the court he did not think there will be much punishment, although there should be a witness from the Town in Court that day.

Alderman Thomas stated that he was selling beer without a permit to a minor, this is a serious offense. He added that the Town needs to have everyone there so that it is conveyed that this is not acceptable.

Chief Rigsby stated that Mr. Scheff did not commit the act of selling to a minor, it was another person. He said that he felt that it would never go before a Judge, although would probably just go before the District Attorney. Alderman Thomas said he felt that it was important that the District Attorney know that a permit holder would have a penalty up to $2,500. Counsel Notestine stated that he had spoken to Mr. Scheff and he said that Chief Rigsby was going to hold his hand through the process. Counsel Notestine told Chief Rigsby that he needs to make sure that is not his role.

Alderman Alexander stated that three establishments out of the four did good in this sting. He asked if they knew this sting took place and their positive actions. Chief Rigsby stated that by law they must be notified within ten days and that was done. Alderman Thomas asked if the law dictated how many times a sting could be performed. Chief Rigsby stated that it could be performed as often as possible.

Mayor Lothers noted that due to the liquor by the drink being on the ballot, it was important that this Board act responsibly on issues such of this.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted, Approved,

Cindy Lancaster, Beth Lothers,

Town Recorder Mayor