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Judge upholds order to demolish the Hog Wild Saloon

Matthew Lane • Nov 16, 2018 at 5:30 PM

KINGSPORT — The new owners of the Hog Wild Saloon suffered a setback on Friday as a Sullivan County judge upheld Kingsport’s decision to order the dilapidated building demolished.

However, the legal battle over the property might not yet be over, as the owners indicated that an appeal is something that’s going to be discussed with their attorneys in the near future.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Hog Wild Saloon has been closed since March after a shooting took place inside the building, claiming the life of a 20-year-old Kingsport man. City police, fire and building officials went through the building and found numerous code and safety violations.

In light of those violations, Kingsport pulled the power and gas meter from the building and it’s been closed ever since. Following a hearing in August, city building official Keith Bruner ordered then-owner Paul Bellamy to demolish the building within 60 days.

In October, Bellamy donated the building to a local nonprofit — Engage Tri-Cities — founded by Jonathon and Carla Anderson. The Andersons are hoping to transform the well-known nightclub into a job resource center for the homeless and low-income families.

To make that a reality, the couple filed an appeal of Bruner’s order in Sullivan County Chancery Court. That appeal was heard Friday by Judge John McClellan.

COST ESTIMATE QUESTIONED

The crux of the matter has to do with Bruner’s order that the Hog Wild Saloon be demolished, something the attorneys for Engage Tri-Cities took issue with on Friday. Kingsport estimates the building is worth only $180,000 in its current condition and that at least $235,000 would be needed to bring it up to code and fit for public use.

“Our position is how did the building official come to some of these numbers?” asked attorney Samuel White. “There’s nothing in the record (from the August hearing) to support these numbers other than an inspector’s estimate.”

Attorney James Holmes said a Morristown company has agreed to repair the roof of the Hog Wild Saloon at no cost to Engage Tri-Cities and Anderson told the Times News that other companies and volunteers are ready to move now on repairing the building.

“I feel like there’s not enough evidence to be conclusive,” White said.

JUDGE’S DECISION

“I don’t believe I can substitute my judgment for that of the building official,” McClellan said during Friday’s hour-long hearing. The situation is “unique,” McClellan added, noting he’s bound by the record presented at the August hearing.

City Attorney Mike Billingsley argued the Andersons knew about the order of demolition at the time they acquired the building and that it would take more than just a new roof to bring it up to code.

In the end, McClellan upheld Bruner’s order for the Hog Wild Saloon to be demolished. Anderson said the cost to demolish the building is upwards of $70,000.

“It’s our desire to continue to work with the building official and the leaders of the city,” Anderson said. “The building is extremely valuable to the community and still a viable property.”

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