Owner of Billiards and Brews responds after state raids his bar, charges him with illegally serving alcohol

Richard Lawhorn said he chose not to follow orders from Knox County health leaders because he didn’t think they were constitutional.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The owner of Billiards and Brews said he didn’t think the state had the right to raid his bar, because he thinks his liquor license should not have been revoked while he and his lawyer go through an appeals process related to him violating several COVID -19 safety restrictions.

Last Tuesday, the state raided Billiards and Brews and issued citations because they found the bar continuing to serve liquor. In February of 2021, the Knoxville Beer Board revoked the local beer and liquor permit for Billiards and Brews.

In January of 2022, the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission revoked Billiards and Brews’ liquor-by-the-drink license. Bar owner Richard Lawhorn said he appealed to the same administrative judge, who denied the appeal. He appealed to the state beverage commission, and they denied it because Lawhorn said he has a pending lawsuit in Federal Court.

So, in April of this year, Lawhorn filed a lawsuit in Davidson County’s Chancery Court.

Lawhorn said while that is pending, he is supposed to be allowed to serve liquor. However, there are no filings in Chancery Court to enjoin the order barring Billiards & Brews from serving liquor, according to Knoxville Attorney T. Scott Jones.

“There is simply no stay in place that I’ve seen in any of the pleadings, or in any of the information that it appears that is on file with the chancery court,” Jones said.

Jones said that based on the paperwork provided by Lawhorn, there is nothing that said Billiards & Brews should keep their license while the case goes through court.

The license revocations for Billiards & Brews began because the bar closed at 3 am during the pandemic emergency order when the city had a 10 pm curfew.

Lawhorn said he didn’t think that order was constitutional, so he simply chose not to follow it.

“I think we have looked at the extension of what would be ordinary police powers to extraordinary powers,” Jones said about the city’s emergency pandemic orders.

However, he said the best place to fight them is in court.

“But to effectively scoff law, it is a bad plan to be on,” Jones said. “Quite frankly, picking a fight with the state without all your I’s dotted and T’s crossed is a bad program.”

Lawhorn’s case is pending in Chancery Court. He said he plans to file in federal court, too.

Lawhorn is facing several misdemeanor charges, including dispensing alcoholic beverages without a license, unlawful sale of alcoholic beverages, and unauthorized storage of liquor for sale. He is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on September 14 at 8:30 am

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