A popular cocktail bar in Memphis was given a choice: remain open in defiance of health department officials or face a $1,500 per day fine.
Nick Scott, the owner of Alchemy, had no choice – and he closed his business — indefinitely.
“Honestly, I feel like it’s a shakedown,” he told LocalMemphis.com.
The Shelby County Health Department recently ordered all bars to shut down indefinitely. However bars along Beale Street, a popular tourist destination, were allowed to remain open under a loophole in the law.
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The order has been confusing for places like Alchemy because in addition to serving alcohol, they are also a full-service restaurant.
So when Mr. Scott announced that he would remain open, he received a visit from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
“He didn’t specifically say you had to shut down, but he said if you don’t shut down right now, we’ll be back with a citation for $1,500 for failure to comply and we could pull your license,” he told LocalMemphis.com.
Shelby County Health director Alisa Haushalter defended her department’s decision to close bars and reduce hours at restaurants.
“If someone comes into a restaurant that also has a bar, someone is seated to have their meal with a glass of wine or beer, that’s fine,” she said at a press briefing. “But people who are coming in to drink and only drink and socialize, that’s very high risk for transmission.”