After some more discussion Monday night, the Knoxville City Council voted to change its ordinance governing the presence of those under 21 in bars to exempt Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs).
Jack Spaur with the American Legion and VFW requested that an ordinance, restricting access to establishments that receive over 50 percent of its income from alcohol sales, be modified to allow those under 21 into the veterans’ halls for funerals, if the individual is a veteran, and for the traditional breakfast after raising the Avenue of Flags. Spaur reiterated his request Monday night.
Police Chief Dan Losada said that part of the reason the ordinance exists is to protect the bars themselves. If minors are not allowed in bars, there is less of a chance underage drinking will occur. He suggested that if the council wanted to help the VSOs, they should throw the policy out in its entirety.
Councilor April Verwers said she was not in favor of removing the entire ordinance, but disagreed with not allowing young veterans into these halls.
“To say you can go out and get shot, but you can’t go into a VFW, is wrong,” Verwers said. She added that she has always been able to take minors to these places without any problem. The issue became a problem due to the ordinance and a citizen complaint, according to Losada .
“All I can say is we got a complaint about this,” Losada said.
“Whoever turned that in, shame on them,” Fred Goodwin, a local resident, said.
City Attorney Bob Stuyvesant said that more exemptions would lead to more problems. He told the council it could exempt veterans’ organizations or repeal the entire ordinance.
“You can keep chopping it down to whatever you want,” Stuyvesant said. He added that it would not affect any other bar more than they are currently being affected.
Councilor Dave Roozeboom made the motion to exempt VSOs from the ordinance. The motion passed 4-1 with Councilor Carolyn Formanek voting against. A process must be followed to officially alter the ordinance, but Losada indicated that enforcement of the law, as it currently stands, will stop.