Chattanooga Senator Looks To Repeal Law He Sponsored Citing “Crime-Infested” Entertainment District

Image Credit: StationStreetCHA / Facebook

The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –

Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga-District 10) intends to repeal a law, specific to Chattanooga, that he sponsored five years ago due to what he says is a “crime-infested” entertainment district. 

In 2016, Gardenhire sponsored a bill, along with former Representative Gerald McCormick, that allows patrons of bars and nightclubs to bring alcoholic beverages out onto Chattanooga’s Station Street, which has many bars and restaurants. Gardenhire blames the city and business owners for the trouble that the street has recently experienced.

In an interview with the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Gardenhire said, “We can’t get the city or the proprietors of those businesses to protect the citizens and establishments down there.” Gardenhire believes getting rid of the law is the way to go to “see if that doesn’t help.”

Proponents of the bill in 2016 envisioned a mini-version of Memphis’s Beale Street for Station Street with live entertainment and the public allowed to bring their alcohol outside in branded plastic cups.

There have been two street shootings in the area. Two women were injured in a shooting in June. Witnesses reported that at least one woman was seen at the Blue Light nightclub, where she was involved in an argument, and was then shot in a parking lot at 1400 Rossville Avenue, near Station Street, shortly after. 

Chattanooga Police says that a significant fight on Station Street led up to an earlier shooting on McCallie Avenue resulting in fourteen injured, and three dead.

Brian Joyce, owner of the Blue Light has said that his club is being blamed for incidents that happen elsewhere in the city. He maintains that the club, which opened in August 2021, is a safe place for a night out.

However, last November, the Chattanooga Beer and Wrecker Board found the Blue Light had violated six distinct code violations between September and October 31st, 2021. These violations included a staff member working while drunk, alcohol sold off premises, and failing to report an incident of disorder to law enforcement.

Due to the violations, the board voted to repeal the bar’s beer license. The Blue Light appealed that decision, and the case was sent to Chancery Court and heard by Judge Jeffrey Atherton in June of this year. In October, the Blue Light said they would hire paid licensed security. However, a Beer Board official has reported that a meeting with Joyce to work out the security agreement has yet to take place. The club is currently in a probationary period of one year. During probation, there are to be no more incidents of disorder or alcohol related violations. Joyce has stated that the Blue Light has had no violations inside the club.

Joyce disagrees with Gardenhire’s assessment of Station Street and sees no real value in the city’s ordinance allowing public consumption of alcohol in the area.

“Statistically speaking, Station Street accounts for nearly 0% of crime in Chattanooga, so to describe it as ‘crime-infested’ is laughable,” he said. “As for the ordinance itself, I wouldn’t be opposed to repealing it. Nobody in Chattanooga from the Beer Board to business owners seems to have a plan for it, we never host major outdoor events on the street like the Beale Street festival in Memphis or St. Patrick’s Day in Savannah, so what’s the point of having it?”

There have been a few events held on the street such as Station Street Live, a concert series, featuring a stage and live music and necessitating street closures.

Comedy Catch owner Michael Alfano says that Gardenhire should talk to business owners on Station Street about what is happening.

“The open containers on Station Street have nothing to do with problems we are experiencing,” he said. “It is the lack of enforcement of the beer board rules on establishments that do not adhere to the rules and laws. We have had open container for five years and problems for only the past year.”

Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at

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