City Council approves Kelly Administration plan to streamline beer licensing process

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Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly

The changes to city code will split beer & wrecker violations appeals processes and transform the beer board into an appellate body, less of an investigative authority.

The changes to city code will split beer & wrecker violations appeals processes and transform the beer board into an appellate body, less of an investigative authority.

Chattanooga, Tenn. (March 2024) – In another significant move to streamline and improve the effectiveness of city boards and processes, the Chattanooga City Council Tuesday approved on first reading Mayor Tim Kelly’s proposal to restructure the Chattanooga Beer & Wrecker Board. Under the new ordinance, the Beer & Wrecker Board will be separated and most of its investigative authority will be transferred to an administrative hearing officer.

In its current iteration, the Beer & Wrecker Board is made up of nine volunteers who unilaterally issue beer and wrecker permits, investigate reported violations, and issue disciplinary action. Under the new changes, most new beer permits will be issued by and investigations will be handled entirely through the Chattanooga Police Department. Appeals of the Beer Board’s decisions can still be made to Hamilton County Chancery Court.

The Beer Board will serve primarily as an appellate entity, hearing and voting on appeals to the decisions made by an administrative hearing officer, who will be hired by the City of Chattanooga and will be an expert in state and local laws. Wrecker cases will now be heard by the Passenger Vehicle for Hire Board, which currently hears cases related to taxi and rideshare services.

“Providing responsive and effective local government is one of the goals of the One Chattanooga plan, and this is a big step in the right direction,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly. “Chattanooga’s Beer Code was last updated in the 1980s, when the minimum drinking age had only just changed. By making this reform, we’re getting government out of the way of small business and doing away with silly, archaic rules like the one that punished business owners for using a cell phone instead of a landline to report issues.”

The updated changes to the city’s beer code will also decrease the allowable distance, in certain commercial zones, for bars and restaurants to be built from childcare centers and schools. On top of its appellate authority, the Beer Board will also hear applications for beer permits where CPD found possible issues.

Mayor Kelly added “in certain growing areas of our city, restaurants cannot legally be built for 1,000-foot stretches. We understand safety concerns and acknowledge the importance of keeping bars and restaurants an appropriate distance from places that provide services to children. But we can protect our kids while also allowing local businesses to thrive by applying some common sense.”

Individuals interested in applying to serve on a City of Chattanooga board should visit cha.city/boards.