Billiards & Brews raided by Knoxville police

The city of Knoxville said officers found liquor and kegs of beer on-site, saying the bar had been selling booze without valid permits.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville police raided a billiards bar that lost its liquor and beer licenses for code violations after it ignored city laws more than a dozen times during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, state and city officials said.

The city of Knoxville said police officers raided Billiards & Brews after the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission served a warrant Tuesday, saying officers found 20 kegs of beer and various alcoholic beverages on site. The city said officers cited the business for storing beer for resale without a valid permit.

The raid came after the TABC issued citations for unlawful sales of alcoholic beverages in July 2022, saying its undercover agents were able to buy alcoholic drinks at the business between July 14 and 19. During the raid, police said they found a pill bottle in an office desk drawer containing less than a gram of white powder that appeared to be cocaine. Police arrested a woman who worked at the business, Kali Olsen, on a misdemeanor charge of simple possession.

The state of Tennessee revoked the bar’s liquor-by-the-drink license in January 2022, and Knoxville revoked its local liquor and beer licenses in February 2021 after citing the business 18 times for refusing to follow the Knox County Department of Health’s pandemic-induced alcohol curfew in 2020.

After the 2020 citations, the TABC cited Billiards & Brews, which put its state alcohol license in jeopardy.

After COVID-19 restrictions lifted in early 2021, Billiards & Brews said it began serving alcohol again, saying a judge had signed an injunction allowing them to serve even after the city revoked its beer and liquor licenses.

In January 2022, an administrative judge with the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office issued an order to formally revoke Billiards & Brews’ liquor-by-the-drink license after reviewing the case. The judge said the owner, Richard Lawhorn, had not provided credible testimony or evidence proving his business had followed the appropriate city codes during the time.

“Because the Respondent showed a continued and persistent unwillingness to abide by recognized legal authority in effect at the time, specifically laws that were enacted to protect the general health and safety of the citizens of Knox County during the COVID-19 pandemic, revocation of its license is reasonable and appropriate,” said Administrative Judge Rachel Waterhouse.

The TABC said Lawhorn had claimed his business had not served alcohol after the curfew and was “uniquely situated” to stay open past the bar curfew at the time without serving alcohol because it hosted billiards leagues on a weekly basis. Even though Lawhorn had claimed no alcohol had been served after the 10 pm curfew, Knoxville police cited the business four times for breaking the curfew after officers said they saw people inside drinking alcohol.

“Mr. Lawhorn did not offer any unbiased or objective proof in support of his position. Other than his testimony, Mr. Lawhorn did not offer any proof to corroborate his theory of the case,” Waterhouse said. “Therefore, Mr. Lawhorn’s testimony on the ultimate fact was neither reasonable nor credible when considering the totality of the evidence presented.”

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