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Bar owner says he feels targeted after Pigeon Forge changes liquor rules

The Pigeon Forge City Commission banned alcohol sales after 1 a.m. due to state law, a change from the previous time of 3 a.m.

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — The owner of the "Funky Budha" in Pigeon Forge said his business is down 70% after the city started enforcing a change in the time businesses can serve liquor. 

Previously, the bar was allowed to serve alcohol until 3 a.m., but the city started enforcing a 1 a.m. deadline over the summer. The change came because of a state law setting different rules for cities and for premiere resort cities.

Assistant City Manager Eric Brackins said the city changed its rules because it considers itself a "Premier Resort Town," meaning it has different rules to follow under state law. 

But T. Scott Jones, the attorney representing the Funky Budha, said the city has no documentation to back up its claim that it is a Premier Resort Town. 

"We've requested the recorder to produce the information," Jones said. "What we've heard since our request, despite numerous follow-ups, is crickets."

The owner of the Funky Budha said his bar was the only one open past midnight in Pigeon Forge, so his customers would come to his bar around 11:30 p.m. — after other places in the city closed. 

Now, he said people would rather go to Sevierville to drink because they have more time to enjoy themselves. 

"We've seen what would amount to targeted legislation against one individual business," Jones said. "When he started his business, he was in complete conformity with the charter of the City of Pigeon Forge."

Funky Budha Owner Roger Vazirani said that if Pigeon Forge doesn't change the rules, he will have to close. 

"My bartenders have quit, my staff has quit, because they can't make enough tips," Vazirani said. 

The Pigeon Forge City Commission approved an ordinance changing the City Charter to ban alcohol sales past 1 a.m. on Monday. 

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