NewsNewsChannel 5 Investigates


State law prevents ABC from running background checks on bar and nightclub owners

Posted: 5:49 PM, Feb 27, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-28 01:00:06Z
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Police officers raided and padlocked the Ultra Lounge in Midtown on Church Street after a judge declared it a public nuisance, citing a laundry list of incidents over the last two years.

Several hours later, the club's owner, Anthony Powell, surrendered to police. Powell, we've found, has a long criminal history, but that didn't stop him from getting a liquor license.

The state's Alcoholic Beverage Commission wants a judge to take away his club's liquor license, but because of a state law, they can't.

Powell asked the state for a liquor license in 2016 so he could sell alcohol at his now padlocked club on Church Street. He renewed that license in 2017 and again in 2018.

That same Anthony Powell has been arrested nearly two dozen times over the years. Among his charges, both felony drug and assault charges. Yet, the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission repeatedly gave him a liquor license.

It turns out, his last felony conviction was in 2005, but the state only considers felony convictions from the last ten years.

And Powell did reveal that conviction on his first application. But the next year, when asked if he'd ever been convicted of any offense, he answered no. And he did the same thing, the following year.

Thus in an effort to revoke that license, the Alcoholic Beverage Commission or ABC is arguing that Powell provided "false information" on his application and that he "failed to disclose his complete criminal history."

It turns out, under a 2018 law, the ABC can now disqualify applicants based on older convictions.

But how did the ABC not know that Powell had a long criminal history? A simple background check from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation took us just minutes and we were able to get a detailed 12-page report.

Yet, the ABC says they can't do that. Not only does the state charge them $29 for each background check, but state law only allows the ABC to do background checks on alcohol servers and wholesale distributors, and not people who want to sell alcohol at bars and clubs like the Ultra Lounge.

So for applicants like that, the ABC can only take them at their word.