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Oak Ridge attorney Mike Ritter compared the Grill & Pub to an old house that needs a facelift. He insisted his client, Harriman resident Roma L. Christopher, was the one who could fix it up.
“It’s standing by itself and it doesn’t look good and it’s been in shambles,” Ritter said. “Someone with integrity can come along and make that house look a lot better, and I submit to you that’s what these people intend to do.”
The Roane County Beer Board didn’t think so, voting 4-0 on Tuesday to deny Christopher’s application for a beer permit. She planned to operate out of the Grill & Pub under the name 27/61 Grill-N-Pub.
“I know I’ve been treated very unfairly by Facebook and you all,” she told the board.
Bar opponent Vickie Davis started a Facebook page called “Help Me Stop the Grill and Pub in Harriman from Reopening” that has more than 800 likes.
“My grandmother used to say to me that you are judged by the company you keep,” Davis said. “Ms. Christopher keeps company with Grover Norton, and we all know how he ran this establishment.”
The Grill & Pub, which is located at 2224 Harriman Hwy., is owned by Norton.
In February, the beer board revoked his permit for a year after one of his employees was cited at the bar for allegedly selling a beer to an underage informant.
Ritter said they planned to put in Christopher’s lease that the only time Norton could appear at the establishment would be to collect rent or inspect property damage.
“But he (Norton) still owns the property?” Beer Board Member Chris Johnson asked.
“Yes,” Ritter responded.
Under Norton’s management, the Grill & Pub was a hot spot for trouble, according to Roane County Sheriff Jack Stockton.
“I’ve been the sheriff of this county since 2006 and during that period the (Grill & Pub) has been a major problem for Roane County,” he said.
“In the last several months since it’s been closed, it’s definitely been quieter on that end of the county.”
The beer board also heard from an emotional Roy and Rebecca Harvey on Tuesday.
“Please don’t open it back up,” Rebecca Harvey pleaded to the board.
The Harveys’ son, David, was found dead outside the Grill & Pub on July 23, 2011. Eric Gallaher is charged with voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault-bodily injury in his death.
“He was such a good man,” Rebecca Harvey said of her son. “It shouldn’t have happened.”
Stockton initiated the action to revoke Norton’s permit and he asked the board not to grant one to Christopher.
“It would be an asset to the county to keep it closed,” he said.
“On behalf of this family, I think they’ve suffered enough and there should be no more hardships placed on the citizens of this county because someone wants to have a beer to drink in a violent environment.”
Tuesday wasn’t the first time Christopher appeared before the beer board.
At the June meeting, the board refused to even hear her application.
“I ain’t too happy with this county,” she said. “It’s a shame. I live here and pay taxes here.”
Christopher also said she’s not being financed by Norton.
“I have a good job,” she said. “I can make my own money.”
The county sought to revoke Norton’s permit in 2011 shortly after Harvey’s death, but relented after he agreed to certain conditions, which included installing security cameras, enhancing the lighting on the outside and hiring security guards.
Ritter asked the board to postpone voting on Christopher’s application so they could put stricter rules in place.
His overture was rejected.