editorial (2006-31)

This is Not about Beer

In the wake of the Wests’ indictments, is the KPD keeping Market Square’s best interest in mind?

This is Not about Beer

We here in the newsroom, like many Knoxvillians, snickered a little at the doomsday shadow some cast over Market Square in the wake of the Wests’ indictments. It took a village to develop re-downtown into the crown jewel it is today, and it’ll take nothing short of a village to bring it down.

That won’t stop some from trying. Namely Police Chief Sterling Owen, who refused to provide KPD officers for this Thursday’s Robinella/Scott Miller concert on the Square. Without the requisite number of police officers providing security, the event’s already-obtained beer permit would be invalid.

Owen’s reasoning? Event-organizing artists foundation Lili Montage’s affiliation with Scott West, who resigned from the group the day after his indictment, before the group applied for a beer permit before the Beer Board and was subsequently approved. Prior to his indictment, West made the original phone call to the KPD to inquire about how many police officers would be needed for event security, apparently creating a conflict of interest—even though West is no longer affiliated in any way with Lili Montage.

If the event was under a different banner, however, Owen would grant the necessary officers. Making the success of the concert itself her first priority, Lili Montage member and World Grotto owner Suzy Dew moved forward with finding another organization to function, if only in name, as the event organizer and beer-permit recipient. Eddie Mannis, co-chair of the Dogwood Arts Festival, agreed to take it on, and was present at Tuesday evening’s Beer Board meeting to make the switch. The Beer Board unanimously approved the change, confirming that 100 percent of the proceeds would go toward the DAF organization. After the vote, Dew pleaded that 10 percent of the proceeds still go toward the completion of James Agee Park, as had been originally planned and advertised. Mannis agreed.

The fate of the remaining three events on the Square that Lili Montage is slated to hold beer permits during—annual Latin festival Fiesta De Las Americas, Shakespeare on the Square, and a Caribbean festival featuring the Natti Lovejoys this fall—remains to be seen. Lili Montage may disassemble and re-band under a different name, or the beer permits may be held by a different organization—DAF again, City People, or the Market Square District Association. Which raises another interesting question: Since West has yet to resign from the MSDA, will that organization be denied police security and, therefore, a beer permit as well? It seems likely.

However things shake down, it doesn’t seem fair that the success of Square events should be jeopardized and that well-meaning Square merchants like Dew should lose profits because of the KPD’s unwillingness to cooperate. If it’s Owen’s way of showing muscle, it’s serving no one’s best interest. In the process, West is being deprived of the “innocent until proven guilty” right that we hold as Americans.

In coming months, complications may well arise as the city sorts out the Square’s future. We can only hope that decision-makers and officials assess the situation through the lens of logic and act with the best interest of downtown foremost in mind.