South Pittsburg board’s initial rejection of ordinance reversed
SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — When organizers with the Scenic City Supper Club in Chattanooga approached city leaders about hosting an event in South Pittsburg, it became apparent some rules would have to change to do it.
At the South Pittsburg City Commission’s October meeting, the board considered Ordinance 793 on first reading, which would allow officials to designate certain public properties, like the Princess Theatre, as temporary licensure locations for the sale or service of alcoholic beverages.
The ordinance would apply only to nonprofit organizations, and those groups would have to have prior board approval and the proper state or city licensing ahead of time.
“It cannot be an individual or a for-profit entity,” City Attorney Billy Gouger said.
The Scenic City Supper Club was contacted by local manufacturer Lodge Manufacturing Company about hosting the event between Second Street and Third Street in front of the Princess Theatre on Nov. 4.
A Supper Club representative said the group puts on a “guest chef series” to spotlight area chefs, farmers and producers, and those meals include alcohol that may be paired with the food.
“It’s not a free-for-all, of course, but we have provided alcohol at these events in the past,” the representative said.
She said there is “a great deal of exposure” through hosting a Supper Club event, and media coverage from major outlets such as Southern Living already have been confirmed.
Only three of the five board members were present at the meeting, which caused some initial confusion about whether or not the ordinance could be approved.
The board voted 2-1 to approve it, but Gouger believed that with only three board members present, all three would have to vote for the ordinance for it to proceed with a majority vote.
Mayor Virgil Holder cast the lone dissenting vote and said he thought the ordinance was “too much to change on such a short notice.”
Commissioner Jimmy Haley pleaded with Holder to think about the positive exposure the town could get through hosting the event.
“I’m looking at the exposure and stuff, but I don’t think that you should go in and change your ordinances and rules because somebody comes to you two days ahead of time or three days ahead of time and say, ‘We want it done,’” Holder told Haley.
“This has needed to be changed,” Commissioner Samantha Rector said. “We’re not talking about having a sorority party. These are grown adults.”
Holder said “some thought” needs to be put into changing the town’s existing rules, as well as getting feedback from the community before a change is made.
“Go back to Florida,” resident Carolyn Millhiser told Holder after his statement.
After the meeting, however, Gouger examined the city charter and clarified his original position that three votes were needed for a majority.
“Per Article 2, Section 6 of the City’s Charter, when a quorum is present, an action passes if it is approved by a majority vote of the members present,” he said in a message to city leaders. “Based on the two votes in favor of the Ordinance out of the three Board members present, it is my opinion that the Ordinance actually passed on first reading.”
Rector said the board would try to hold a special called meeting in the next week or two, so it could have a public hearing and a second and final vote on the matter.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@ gmail.com