Surgoinsville BMA rejects business’s request for on-premises beer permit

Rack ‘Em Up Pool Hall is located at 219 Route 346, is on the far west end of Surgoinsville

The Surgoinsville BMA denied an on-premises beer permit to local business Rack ‘Em Up Pool Hall at their Oct. 12 meeting.

One alderman made a motion to accept the necessary changes to the town’s beer ordinance to allow this permit, but this motion died for lack of a second. However, no aldermen gave a reason for their lack of support for the motion.

Rack ‘Em Up is located at 219 Route 346, is on the far west end of Surgoinsville and is owned by Amanda and Jason Wolfe.

Amanda Wolfe requested the permit at the board’s September meeting; however, City Attorney Joe May explained at that meeting that the city didn’t have an on-premises ordinance, so the board wasn’t able to vote for an on-premises beer permit at the time.

If Wolfe’s permit had been granted, she would have actually been making Surgoinsville history, as no Surgoinsville business has ever offered on-premises alcohol consumption in the town’s history.

May drafted a proposed on-premises beer ordinance after the September meeting, which the BMA considered and ultimately rejected at their October meeting.

First Surgoinsville business to request on-premises beer permit

“The state has provided for municipalities to permit on-premises consumption,” May explained at the September meeting. “I looked at the Surgoinsville beer ordinance, and it doesn’t appear to provide a procedure for the Beer Board to issue an on-premises permit. I suspect that this is the first time anyone has ever asked for an on-premises permit.”

He added, “What we would have to do, if the board chooses to allow on-premises consumption of beer, is adopt an ordinance that sets a procedure by which the board can issue an on-premises permit. Right now, all the Beer Board does is issue off-premises permits.”

“I know you work hard at keeping a peaceful place,” Mayor Merrell Graham told Wolfe in September.

“I would like for you to give me the opportunity to show you I can maintain a decent place for the city of Surgoinsville,” Wolfe replied.

When a board member asked May at the Oct. 12 meeting for clarification on the procedures the town would be required to set to regulate on-premises beer consumption, May explained, “You would have to have an ordinance that sets out under what circumstances and conditions the town would permit on-premises sale of beer. You also have whatever other restrictions the town deems in the best interest of the citizens of the town of Surgoinsville.”

For example, May said that the town could set specific hours during which beer could be sold or add other conditions that the town would like establishments to follow.

Though some of these rules are set at the state level, May told the board that “municipalities have a great deal of leeway.”

“I don’t want a bar, I don’t want a pub”

“We’re not asking for a bar permit, we’re asking for a beer permit,” Wolfe told the BMA on Oct. 12.

She explained that many of the players who frequent her business have asked her to provide food and refreshments for sale in her business. At this point, the business is around 90% finished with construction of an on-premises small restaurant and will soon be able to offer food.

“Would I be asking for a beer permit for JUST a pool hall?” she told the board. “No. But, I am asking for this beer permit because that is what the customers would like to have. As with Asian Cuisine or the Mexican restaurants, you don’t HAVE to order a beer, but you can go in, sit down and just have a home-cooked meal.”

She told the board that she has already had a health inspector inspect her new restaurant.

“I’m not wanting to open a bar, and I’m not wanting a pub or anything like that,” she said. “You have to have a purpose to get a beer there. You can’t come in, just sit there and drink all day—I won’t allow it.”

“I’m not asking for this for me”

“Didn’t you mention at one time that your patrons would go out, get in their car, drink a beer and then come back in?” Alderman Ken Bass asked Wolfe.

“That’s what they do,” Wolfe replied.

“Well, that’s a violation of your beer permit, right there,” he said. “It’s off-premises, not on-premises now.”

When Wolfe explained that she cannot control what patrons do inside their own vehicles, Bass suggested that she ask them to leave or call the police.

Wolfe told Bass that she has, in fact, had to ask patrons to leave the premises before, to which Bass replied, “That’s up to you to take care of your premises.”

When Graham asked Wolfe how much of a problem she has had with people drinking inside their vehicles, Wolfe replied, “It HASN’T been a problem—that’s what I’m trying to say.”

Graham also agreed with Wolfe that she doesn’t have the authority to search people’s vehicles.

“If I see that they’re staggering in there, I say, ‘what are you all doing?’ and I tell them not to do it,” she said. “But, I’m only one person. They have to be responsible for their own actions to a point. No, I don’t have a beer permit right now, and, yes, I have said that I’ve noticed that they’ll go out there and drink a beer. But, I can’t tell them what they can do in their own vehicle. I don’t have that authority. They can tell me to go fly a kite somewhere, and then there’s an argument.”

“I’m not asking for this for me,” she added.

She noted that her business hosts APA (American Poolplayer Association) tournaments, and she has had more players sign up for these tournaments since the restaurant and beer permit have been in the works.

“Even if I don’t get the beer permit, I’m still going to open up a restaurant, have home cooking and make it as pleasant as I can,” she added.

She even told the board that she has brought ministries into her business to try and talk with some patrons who she noticed seemed to be under the influence.

“I never knew what ‘tweaking’ was until other players would tell me, ‘you’ve got to do something—they’re on drugs,’” she said. “I would confront them and tell them they can’t come here if they’re going to act that way because I don’t want that type of atmosphere here.”

“She runs an awesome pool hall”

Several patrons of Rack ‘Em Up also spoke out in support of Wolfe and her business.

“When my fiancé and I discovered Rack ‘Em Up, one of the first things I realized was that she [Wolfe] ran an awesome pool hall,” said patron Dawn Young. “She was always friendly and outgoing, and the tournaments are run well. Except the one person she had to ban (Wolfe explained a patron attempted to start two fights), she’s never had another issue in there.”

“I go up there and shoot pool all the time,” said another patron. “I see no problems, and it’s a really nice establishment. They’re friendly, and I think it would be a really good thing to do.”

He noted that he even brings his son and nephew to play pool.

“This woman right here is doing a really good thing for this community,” said another patron, as she pointed to Wolfe. “We’ve got a lot of young kids that come up there, and it keeps them off the road. I take my grandson, and we spend hours on end up there shooting pool. She’s got a great thing going—let’s keep it going in this little county.”

When it came time for an Alderman to make a motion to accept the changes to the beer ordinance, the board sat in silence for several minutes. When no one made the motion, Graham began to tell Wolfe that there was no way her request could move forward, as no one had motioned.

Alderman Matthew Somers then made a motion, but his motion died for lack of a second.