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Bar's beer permit revoked for failing to follow virus closure curfew; mayor welcomes decision

Billiards & Brews was cited 18 times for failing to follow a 10 p.m. closure order imposed by the health board.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — A West Knoxville bar that repeatedly ignored orders to shut down at 10 p.m. to help control the spread of COVID-19 has lost its city beer permit.

A hearing officer made the move Wednesday to revoke Billiards & Brews' city beer permit after hearing testimony Tuesday.

The Unicorn Drive business cannot try to apply for another one for 10 years under the city code.

Considering the bar's continued stance against following the curfew, hearing officer Gerald Gulley found there was no point in fining it and suspending the permit.

Revocation was the best option, he found.

Mayor Indya Kincannon welcomed the move.

"Billiards & Brews is by far the single most flagrant violator of the Board of Health's pandemic safety measures," Kincannon said in a statement. "Testimony from the Knoxville Police Department, in fact, showed that the bar's 18 citations over three months set a record for the most in recent memory.

"The bar owner and managers repeatedly made conscious decisions to violate the law, and those decisions -- during a health emergency that has killed more than 500 Knox County residents -- put our community unnecessarily in greater danger."

The bar may have the option of appealing the decision to Knox County Chancery Court.

While the bar was violating the health order, a gunman shot and killed a man outside it early Dec. 27, police allege. Landon Hank Black, 25, is now facing prosecution for the homicide.

Owner Richard Lawhorn told 10New he took the board's regulation as a recommendation and not something that was legally enforceable. He vowed to continue operating his business under pre-virus hours.

The city had asked that the city permit be suspended for at least 75 days -- and at least until the owner agreed to follow Board of Health regulations, Gulley noted.

Starting in November, the Knoxville Police Department's inspections unit issued 18 citations against the bar and Lawhorn for failing to follow the curfew.

Costs of the hearing are to be paid by Lawhorn, Gulley ruled.

The Knox County Board of Health adopted the requirement last fall as one effort to stop the spread of the virus, which at the time was spreading rapidly among the populace.

Businesses that serve alcohol are now allowed to close at 11 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. Virus cases and deaths have been trending down in recent weeks.

Several regulations remain in effect, however, including a mask mandate.

KPD officers also cited Paul's Oasis on Kingston Pike more than a half-dozen times for failing to follow the curfew.

It's had its beer permit suspended for 60 days. The bar is now telling customers to bring their own beer.

The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission has also suspended Billiards and Brews' liquor license.