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Shelby County bar owners worried about future amid delays with beer permit renewals

“We have a full kitchen and that’s open all the time, but people come in here for the beer,” Rhonda Ballard said. “You know people find other places to go.”

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Beer permit renewals in Shelby County were due at the end of January, but those at some Memphis area bars say they never got a notice in the mail in the first place.

One bar owner told ABC24 they are worried their business might be in jeopardy.

“It’s very scary to know that we might go through this again,” said Rhonda Ballard, owner and operator of the Shake Rag in Millington.

Ballard said getting the original beer permit for the Shake Rag left her feeling like the Shelby County Clerk was holding her papers hostage.

“Every time we’d go, we’d need something else; she was out of town, there would be papers that she would say wasn’t right that we already had,” Ballard said.

Because of those failed attempts to reach the clerk, Ballard said the bar couldn’t operate for three months.

“We couldn’t work," she said. "We couldn’t do anything to provide for our family."

Ballard and several other beer distributors in Shelby County were expecting to get a renewal request back in December. Now, the calendar has flipped to February and they're still waiting for that permit in the mail.

“If they do not do it by that time, then they are operating without a permit,” said Kevin Mcvay with the Beer Board. “They’d be violating the law and they would be subject to penalties.”

With no mail in sight, Ballard is now scrambling and making more calls — concerned if she can legally serve alcohol in her bar in the meantime.

If she can’t, Ballard said the future of the Shake Rag could be in jeopardy.

“We have a full kitchen and that’s open all the time, but people come in here for the beer,” she said. “You know people find other places to go.”

ABC24 reached out to Shelby County Clerk Wanda Halbert, and she sent us back the Shelby County policy via text, which states that people with a beer permit must pay for a renewal within 30 days after a written notice was mailed. 

Still, Halbert didn't say in the text whether a written notice had been sent out to those bars waiting for their renewals.

ABC24 called Halbert again Thursday afternoon for additional clarification, but was told she was in a meeting.

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