One of Middle Tennessee's fastest growing counties is taking aim at one of the state's fastest growing problems - synthetic drug sales.
Rutherford County officials are targeting businesses that sell the drugs in the first countywide crackdown of its kind in Tennessee.
The Rutherford County Beer Board came down hard on Fady Henin, owner of Wild Rockvale Tobacco and Beer. His beer license has been suspended for six months for selling synthetic drugs and even offering a free smoking pipe if a customer bought more than one pack.
He was also busted earlier this year for selling beer to a minor.
"I will lose my business. I'm not staying 180 days without beer. I just started the business," Henin said.
The beer board also sent a harsh message to Family Market in Rockvale, Kountry Korner Market on Old Nashville Highway and Lascassas Market on Lascassas Pike. Those businesses can't sell beer for a month.
"We want people to be successful in business here in Rutherford County, but we want them to do it legally. These synthetic drugs are becoming a progressive problem for our youth," said Keith Bratcher, chairman of the Rutherford County Beer Board.
The markets were raided as part of Operation Synful Smoke last year, during which undercover agents purchased bath salts and synthetic drugs. In total, local, state and federal agents busted more than 30 stores in Rutherford County.
The owners got a chance to state their case at a beer board meeting Monday night, but in the end, the board wasn't buying it.
"If other people jump off the bridge, will you jump off the bridge with them? If you're in business, you need to be responsible. You need to follow the law," said board member Mike Avery.
The Smyrna Beer Board took the lead on suspending beer permits, and Rutherford County is now the first county in the state to do the same.
State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, said he couldn't be happier with the action.
"They sent a message loud and clear, and they kind of followed Smyrna's lead. And I don't think they'll be doing it again," Sparks said.
All four markets were told to take the beer off the shelves or black out the coolers and put on a chain and lock.
Rutherford County sheriff's officials will be making random checks at these markets, making sure they are not selling beer without a permit. If the market owners or their employees are caught selling beer without a beer permit, they could face additional penalties.
Henin said the sale of beer accounts for 50 percent of his business, and he said the 180 ban on beer sales will force his business to close.
"He may have to shut down, and so be it. He knew what he was doing," Sparks said.
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