Residents who live nearby the Gap Tap filled the Cumberland Gap Town Hall meeting room to capacity Tuesday evening to complain about alleged noise levels and other disturbances coming from patrons of the popular establishment.
During the monthly Beer Board meeting, town attorney James Estep III said there had been “four or five complaints” lodged against the bar that included an apparent lax in adhering to the closing time.
Estep said town ordinances require those establishments serving alcohol to stop serving at midnight and to vacate the premises by 12:30 a.m.
Other complaints include obscene language, screaming, public urination, the littering of beer bottles, partially filled cups of beer and other trash by customers walking alongside adjacent residential areas. On at least one occasion, a complaint alleged gunshots from the vicinity of the bar or parking area.
One neighbor said she had witnessed underage drinking by a customer she knew to be a high school student.
Chris Anderson, who is the owner/operator of the Gap Tap, said he has never been cited for underage drinking. Anderson said he has had multiple “walk-throughs” by law enforcement in which no underage drinker was found.
Mayor Bill McGaffee, who once operated the Holiday Inn lounge, said his experience was that underage drinking cannot be controlled if you allow those who are under the legal drinking age to frequent an establishment that serves alcohol.
One resident said it would go a long way toward remedying the situation if Anderson would agree to hire someone to man the front door, checking identifications as each customer entered.
That person could also keep a casual watch of adjacent properties to alleviate the potential for disturbances of the peace and littering.
It was suggested the patio be enclosed to prevent those who are underage to acquire alcohol from customers who are of legal age.
Anderson said he plans to install a gate along the patio, even though he is not required by law to do so. He said he would also have signs erected directing his customers to respect the properties of his neighbors and not to block residential driveways.
The exit door leading to Pennlyn, Anderson said, would be locked at midnight to alleviate some of the problems associated with customers leaving by that route.
McGaffee suggested to the residents to call E-911 whenever problems arise. That way, the recorded complaints could be used for future reference.
Anderson said he had heard rumors that some were attempting to shut down his business. Those who lodged complaints against the Gap Tap and those on the Beer Board assured Anderson that was not their intentions.
Estep said there were a few ways to handle the situation.
Town officials could choose to issue a warning, levy fines or suspend or revoke the beer license, he said.
A repeal of the town beer ordinance would stop the legal sale of alcohol in its tracks, according to Estep. It would take just two readings of the resolution to accomplish, he said.
Board member Teresa Fuson said she thought issuing a warning would be a good first step.
If a warning was issued, Estep said, it would not be enforceable.
After a bit more discussion, the board decided to continue the matter for one month. The Beer Board will resume the discussion on Oct. 5, immediately following the regular monthly meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP.