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Hunter v. City of Chattanooga Beer Board

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

October 12, 2017

RAYMOND HUNTER, JR.
v.
CITY OF CHATTANOOGA BEER BOARD

          Session August 10, 2017

         Appeal from the Chancery Court for Hamilton County No. 13-0709 Pamela A Fleenor, Chancellor.

         The petitioner seeks reversal of the denial of a beer permit by the city. City's board asserts that the property is unsuitable for a beer permit as it has lost its zoning status as a "grandfathered in" restaurant, bar, or event hall. The trial court affirmed the board's action. The petitioner filed this appeal. The trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider it. We vacate the trial court's order and dismiss this case.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery Court Vacated; Case Dismissed.

          Raymond Hunter, Jr., Chattanooga, Tennessee, pro se.

          Keith J. Reisman and Melinda Foster, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Chattanooga Beer Board.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., joined.

          OPINION

          JOHN W. MCCLARTY, JUDGE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 20, 1979, the Chattanooga Board of Commissioners adopted Ordinance Number 7476, which zoned the property now owned by Raymond Hunter, Jr. (hereinafter, "the Property") at 2510 East Main Street as M-2, "Light Industrial Zone." Restaurant, bars, and event halls are not permitted uses on land zoned M-2. The Property had previously been zoned C-2.

         No evidence was presented at trial regarding the use of the Property prior to 1988. The petitioner in this matter, Hunter, attached exhibits to his appellate brief to reflect that the Property was used as a restaurant and/or bar before the zoning change in 1979. Hunter also attempted to supplement the record before this court.

         A business license with the City of Chattanooga ("City") is for one year and expires on March 31 of each year. The license history for the Property was introduced at trial and reflected the following restaurant and/or bar use: Spuds of Ridgedale obtained a business license to operate on the Property on April 21, 1988. More than a year after Spuds of Ridgedale closed on July 26, 1989, a business named D & D obtained a permit on August 16, 1990, and then closed on August 16, 1991. More than two and a half years later, Stroker's obtained a business license to operate on the Property on March 3, 1994. Stroker's did not renew its license, which expired by operation of law on March 31, 1995. Bootscooters applied for a business license to operate on the Property on November 18, 1994. Bootscooters did not renew its license, which expired on March 31, 1995. Birdland Restaurant & Lounge applied for a business license to operate on the Property on March 15, 1995. Birdland's business license expired on March 31, 1996. The Uptown Supper Club obtained a business license to operate on the Property on October 14, 1996. Uptown's business license expired on March 31, 1999.

         Hunter purchased the Property in April of 2000. He applied for a business license on May 9, 2000, to operate a restaurant called "Off the Chain" on the Property. The next day, Hunter submitted a change of name for the business from "Off the Chain" to "Boo-Coe's." Hunter first applied for a beer permit with the Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board ("the Beer Board") for the Property on September 13, 2000.[1] The application for the beer permit noted that the Property was zoned C-2. The beer permit was approved and issued on October 5, 2000.

         After operating for a few years as Boo-Coe's, Hunter submitted a business tax report to the City for the time period April 1, 2003, through March 31, 2004, in which he stated that his business had no gross income. He eventually leased the Property to third-parties. He was not in business with any of the lessees, requiring the tenants to obtain their own business licenses and beer permits.

         On March 1, 2004, the G-Spot applied for a business license to operate a bar and grill on the Property. It obtained a beer permit on March 4, 2004, and allowed the permit to expire on December 31, 2006. On June 7, 2007, the Wet Bar obtained a business license to operate a business on the Property. It obtained a beer permit on the same day and allowed the permit to expire on December 31, 2011. A restaurant called El Pokar de Ases occupied the Property for a short time, but the last beer permit issued for the Property expired on December 31, 2011. The business permit for El Pokar de Ases expired March 31, 2012.

         Beginning on May 19, 2012, Hunter began renting the Property as an event hall. According to the relevant code provisions, an event hall is a different use than a restaurant/bar. City's Fire Marshal issued a Certificate of Occupancy Count for an event hall on April 11, 2013. City's Land Development Office issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the event hall on April 17, 2013.

         A review of the record reflects that Hunter has a history of City Beer Code violations. On April 18, 2009, at 3:03 a.m., the police and fire marshal went to the Property to conduct a building inspection and observed a line of people waiting to enter the establishment. The Chattanooga Police Department ("CPD") subsequently cited Hunter to appear before the Beer Board for violation of City Code Section 5-47, which prohibits any beer permittee to be open for business after 3:00 a.m. On May 7, ...


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