Johnson City Commission approves Freedom Hall beer license

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A beer license approved by city leaders Thursday evening paves the way for beer sales inside Freedom Hall Civic Center.

In a unanimous decision, the Johnson City Commission granted a beer license to Bruce Miller Enterprises (d/b/a MaxDog’s Catering One-O-One).

Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl told News Channel 11 last week that if the license was approved during Thursday’s meeting, it could mean beer sales “by the beginning of basketball season or shortly thereafter.”

Bruce Miller, the owner of MaxDog’s Catering One-O-One, told News Channel 11 that he plans to pick up the license Friday morning, meaning he will serve beer in some capacity at the ETSU men’s basketball exhibition game Friday night against Catawba inside Freedom Hall.

However, Stahl said the move to sell beer in Freedom Hall was a city-led effort and there has not been any direct involvement with the university.

“I think ETSU along with other shows and events have expressed an interest in seeing alcohol sales as far as the fan experience at games,” Stahl said.

27 percent of the Freedom Hall beer sales revenue will go back to the city.

The city is hopeful beer sales could return Freedom Hall to the Tri-Cities concert hub it was during the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Freedom Hall Director Mark Stone said touring costs increased since then, and artists opted to go toward larger venues. He said alcohol sales could bring extra incentive for artists to come back.

“We’re looking for increased sales and promoter activities,” Stone said. “In my discussions with promoters, they’re very excited about us bringing on beer sales.”

Miller will also take charge of concessions. He hopes to change up the menu at the concession stand.

“We’ve changed some food. We’ve added a couple things,” Miller said. “We’re not where we need to be as far as the concession operations, but we will get there.”

Miller said in a prior interview with News Channel 11 that he plans to apply for liquor and wine licenses from the state.

Beer sales is the latest measure in a decade-long project to revitalize the venue. Stahl said the city has spent over $17 million upgrading seating, bathroom and other amenities.

He added the city will soon be looking for proposals to renovate the ground floor at Freedom Hall. Stahl said that space could be used for further events and conventions.

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