City, market settle beer license revocation suit

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

A local convenience store will have its privileges to sell beer restored following a settlement with the city's Beverage Board.
Joseph L. Wood, Jr. and the City of Elizabethton have reached a settlement that effectively vacates a ruling by the city's Beverage Board to revoke Wood's license to sell beer at J & W Market on Sycamore Street.
The Beverage Board had revoked Wood's license in May 2002 following the market's third violation in four years of selling beer to an underage operative working for the Elizabethton Police Department.
Wood challenged the revocation citing dissimilar treatment given by the board to Mountain Empire Oil Company. Roadrunner #141 owned by Mountain Empire Oil committed its 3rd offense of selling beer to a minor in Dec. 2000.
The Beverage Board held a show cause hearing where the Mountain Empire Co.'s owner acknowledged beer had been sold to the underage operative.
However, the Beverage Board assessed a $1,500 penalty against Mountain Empire as the permit holder, but did not suspend the market's permit to sell beer.
Judge Thomas J. Seeley, Jr. indicated in a letter sent to both parties on April 7 that there was a possible violation of constitutional rights in that Mountain Empire had received more favorable treatment than Wood under similar circumstances.
Judge Jean Stanley signed the settlement order that was filed in Carter County Circuit Court on Monday.
On March 28, 2002, an employee of J & W Market sold beer to an underage and undercover police operative. At a show cause hearing on the violation May 9, 2002, the board revoked J & W Market's permit after the owner acknowledged the employee sold beer to the underage operative.
J & W Market had two previous offenses of employees selling beer to underage operatives working for police. After the first such offense which occurred in Aug. 1998, Wood chose to adhere to a $250 fine rather than have beer sales suspended for three days under an optional punishment presented to him by the board.
The board suspended the license for two weeks following the second offense in July 2000. Wood appealed that decision to the Circuit Court, which upheld the suspension.
The 7-member Elizabethton City Council functions as the city's Beverage Board approving beer permits and issuing punitive action against permit holders who violate terms of the permit. The city issued an off-premises beer permit to Wood to do business as J & W Market on June 8, 1995.