The VFW Club will be without a beer permit for at least another month.
Quartermaster Thomas Skelenka appeared before the DeKalb County Beer Board Thursday night to inquire about when the VFW can get back its permit. Until then, the club cannot sell beer.
The beer permit was suspended last month following an undercover investigation into allegations of illegal sales of liquor. Agents of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission raided the VFW club on the Sparta Highway March 15 seizing gambling machines, a raffle prize, and cash.
Operators of the VFW allegedly kept selling liquor, even after letting their liquor license expire.
Sheriff Patrick Ray said he was instructed by former beer board chairman Mack Harney to take the VFW's beer permit after operators of the club were issued citations for selling liquor without a license and for possession of gambling devices. Sheriff Ray said he retrieved the permit and surrendered it to the county clerk, pending a final decision by the beer board.
Skelenka told the beer board that while the club can remain open, it cannot survive financially without a beer permit. He said membership has dropped off and unless business picks up and new members can be recruited, the club, which has been in operation since 1946, could go bankrupt and close its doors.
Beer Board members Thursday night voted to have county attorney Hilton Conger attend the next meeting in May to render a legal opinion on how to handle the situation with the VFW since the allegations have to do with liquor and gambling, something the beer board has no control over. The question beer board members want to know is whether the actions of the VFW constitute a violation of their beer permit and whether the beer board should impose further sanctions or civil penalties.
AS WJLE first reported last month, Special Agent Brad Allison said the investigation by the ABC began after complaints surfaced about the VFW. "The Alcoholic Beverage Commission received an anonymous complaint about the VFW in Smithville selling liquor without a license. The complaint was given to the ABC Cookeville Office who researched to see if the VFW currently had a liquor license and they did not. At that time they executed an undercover operation at the establishment and were able to purchase liquor from the bartender inside the VFW. After purchasing the liquor, they then prepared and executed a search warrant on Thursday, March 15. At that time during the search warrant, there were approximately fifty bottles of liquor that were seized; four gambling machines; several envelopes with various amounts of money in the envelopes with some labeled "race boards", some labeled "dice". There was a TV seized that was in a box labeled "raffle" with the amount of the price for the raffle tickets written on the box," said Allison
As a result of the investigation, bartender Brian Soye was cited for unlawful sale of alcohol and quartermaster Thomas Skelenka was issued citations for storage of alcohol for sale and possession of gambling devices. All are misdemeanor offenses.