Last Call

On Line Electronic Filing with Tennessee ABC Makes Progress

By - August 27, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

With the passage of wine in grocery stores, which we affectionately call WIGS, the Tennessee ABC has made a commitment to on-line paperless filings for WIGS applicants.

At the August ABC meeting, the Commission was updated about the progress of the new on-line system.  The report projects that the paperless system will go “live” on May 18, 2016.  The report indicates that design for the system is complete and that the system is being implemented.

The goal is to make WIGS applications entirely electronic.  The ABC also hopes to have the electronic filing system ready for retail liquor stores and wholesalers.

We appreciate how difficult it is for the ABC to go paperless.  We went paperless in 2006, but we only had a few hundred files to digitize.  The ABC has tens of thousands of files.

Johnny Paycheck knows all about it:

Take this job and shove it
I ain’t working here no more
My woman done left and took all the reasons
I was working for

 

Folks Fired Up for Wine in Tennessee Grocery Stores

By - August 25, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Wine hits the shelves in grocery stores starting July 1, 2016.  Theoretically.

Trader Joe’s captures the excitement in this sign, photographed Monday.

Trader Joe's

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is lots to be done behind the scenes before Kroger can sell Kendall-Jackson.  The Tennessee ABC has to implement a new application process, cities have to adopt new procedures for certificates of compliance and grocers have to obtain wine licenses and  certify employees to sell wine.

Which is why we caution that July 1, 2016 is hypothetical for wine in groceries.

Eddie Brickell & the New Bohemians is philosophy 101 for us:

Choke me in the shallow waters
Before I get too deep
What I am is what I am
Are you what you are or what?

Meanwhile, we sympathize with the uneasiness among retail package store owners about the potentially dire consequences of wine in groceries.

Why Tennessee Liquor Laws Forces Older Folks to Present ID for Alcohol

By - August 21, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Over the past few years, Tennessee has become ground zero for new laws requiring universal carding for beer, wine and spirits.  Tennessee was the first state to require everyone to be carded for beer sales, which we blogged about here.  More recently, Tennessee passed a law that requires that all patrons must also present valid ID to purchase wine and spirits in liquor stores.

We blogged about who has to card here.

The exceptions to universal carding are pretty obscure and, in our humble opinion, not easy to find or understand by your average license holder, much less consumers.

Kid Rock not unsurprisingly weighs in:

couldn’t wait to turn 21
To sit in the backyard sun and drink beer with dad

Drinking beer with dad
Out there on the back porch swinging
Drinking beer with dad
Picking my guitar and grinning

We’d hem and haw, we’d cuss and fight
But that’s where I learned life’s best advice

For retail liquor stores, here is the exception that was passed effective May 15, 2015:

SECTION 3. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 57-3-406(d)(1), is amended by deleting the language “the adult consumer” in the second sentence of the subdivision and substituting instead the language “the adult consumer whose physical appearance does not reasonably demonstrate an age of fifty (50) years or older”.

SECTION 4. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 57-3-406(d)(1), is further amended by deleting the language “person” in the last sentence of the subdivision and substituting instead the language “person whose physical appearance does not reasonably demonstrate an age of fifty (50) years or older”.

SECTION 5. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 57-3-808(a), is amended by deleting the period”.” at the end of the subsection and substituting instead the following language:

; however, it is an exception to any criminal punishment or adverse administrative action, including license suspension or revocation, for a violation of this section if the sale was made to a person who is or reasonably appears to be over fifty (50) years of age and who failed to present an acceptable form of identification.

Rather that making it expressly legal not to card someone that has an ID that says the person is over 50 and the person looks over 50, the law eliminates criminal prosecution for selling to a 51 year old that presents an ID.

In our humble opinion, the legislature dodged the issue of carding elderly and regulars.  Although politically popular, universal carding is not without its faults.

For beer, the following was enacted a few years ago.  Like the retail liquor store exemption, it does not eliminate the carding requirement; it only decriminalizes the failure to card.

57-5-301.   (a)  (1)The permit holder or employee shall make a determination from the information presented whether the purchaser is an adult. In addition to the prohibition of making a sale to a minor, no sale of beer for off-premises consumption shall be made to a person who does not present such a document or other form of identification to the permit holder or any employee of the permit holder; however, it is an exception to any criminal punishment or adverse administrative action, including license suspension or revocation, as provided for a violation of this section if the sale was made to a person who is or reasonably appears to be over fifty (50) years of age and who failed to present an acceptable form of identification.

The concessions for older folks to not be required to show ID in Tennessee to purchase alcohol are pretty wimpy, in our humble opinion.  The law still requires you to card everyone, but if you fail to card some older folks, you cannot be criminally cited.

No wonder most places require everyone to show ID, including octogenarian.

How Can I Serve Beer, Wine and Mixed Drinks from my Food Truck in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville or Chattanooga?

By - August 19, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Often celebrated by foodies for creative but cheap eats, food trucks have become grazing ground zero for diners in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.  Food trucks have many advantages over bricks and mortar restaurants, with one key exception.

Tennessee liquor laws do not allow a food truck to serve beer, wine and mixed drinks the way that a restaurant or bar does.  We blogged about the topic here.

In Tennessee, liquor licenses are generally issued for a specific building.  Add a patio or expand your restaurant, for example, and you have to get approval from the ABC.

Food trucks are mobile by definition and do not qualify for restaurant liquor licenses.  There is no special liquor license for food trucks.

James Brown and Paliament-Funkadelice bassist Bootsy Collins gets it with Munchies for Your Love

I got the munchies for your love
Your love is kind of sweet, sweet enough to eat
I’m hooked on you chocolate star
I got the munchies for your love

Alcohol at food trucks is a hot topic at national liquor conferences, but state liquor laws are driven largely by liquor industry politics and not consumer demand.  We are not seeing states flocking to adopt food truck liquor licenses.  Tennessee is no exception.

Although we have found ways to license food trucks in certain circumstances, very few food trucks will qualify for beer permits and liquor licenses under Tennessee law.

Tennessee ABC Sales to Minor Stings Spooks Industry and Leads to Carding Old Folks

By - August 09, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

We have heard from numerous folks about how ridiculous it is to card old folks for alcohol.  We blogged about the pitfalls of universal carding.

Tennessee law requires universal carding for beer sales from grocery and convenience and at liquor stores.  Details are here.

Although Tennessee law does not require restaurants, bars and clubs to card everyone, the fear of damaging suspensions of liquor and beer permits has provoked large numbers of businesses to adopt universal carding.  Fans of universal carding say that the policy is a hard and fast rule that takes guessing out of the hands of servers.  No more reckoning about how old a person is.

Blue Oyster Cult’s classic is appropriate:

Don’t fear the Reaper
Baby take my hand
Don’t fear the Reaper

Tennessee restaurants, bars and clubs are under considerable pressure from the Alcoholic Beverage Commission.  ABC minor stings have hit restaurants and bars hard, particularly in Memphis and Nashville.

The pressure is intense.  Under old ABC policy, failing a minor sting lead to a fine, as long as the establishment demonstrated that it was trying to card.  New ABC policy means a 10-14 suspension for a second sale and 30-45 days for a third.  A fourth sale to minor in three years may lead to revocation.

Making matters worse is a new state law that requires beer boards to impose a suspension at least as long as the ABC.  The new law requires the ABC to notify the beer board of any suspension for sale to minor by certified letter.  The law also requires beer boards to notify the ABC of suspensions and requires the ABC to suspend the liquor license at least as long as the beer board.

Pouring salt in the wound is the fact that the ABC suspension and the beer board suspension generally are imposed at different times.

We know of many well-known respectable businesses in Memphis and Nashville that are facing the prospect of lengthy suspensions.  Managers and staff are under huge amounts of pressure to avoid a fourth sale to minor, which can lead to revocation.

For older customers in particular, the result of the stepped up ABC enforcement makes no sense.  Why card 55 year olds?  Try purchasing alcohol with a foreign ID, like Ireland or Israel.  Even in Nashville honky tonks and Beale Street blues clubs, bars often will not take the chance of serving someone with a foreign ID.

The end result of the new policy is that Tennessee is less friendly to tourists.  In our humble opinion, not a good trend for a state that derives a lot of revenue from visitors.

____________________

Jim Leonard followed our post on universal carding and has some good comments below.  We tend to agree that universal carding is publicly popular, but really takes the focus off identifying and refusing service to under age patrons.

Mr. Leonard comments:

I am writing in response to Will Cheek’s post on August 9th about the extensive carding policies used by nearly every liquor-by-the-drink (LBD) in the State of Tennessee. My thanks to Will for allowing me to share my thoughts on his blog.

Let me first clarify that laws for retail alcohol sales have been relaxed slightly. C-stores (grocery and convenience stores) and liquor stores are supposed to card everyone who reasonably looks to be under 50 years old. The actual laws (2007 for c-stores, 2014 for liquor stores) still say ‘universal carding’ but the fines have been removed in cases where the patrons are 50+ so effectively that lifts the ‘universal’ carding requirement. 

There are many reasons why LBDs should not enforce a universal carding policy. First, this policy is an extraordinary reaction to a problem that doesn’t really exist. It is true that there are people under 21 who want alcohol and it is best for everyone if they don’t get it. That said, is there any evidence that underage drinking has become such a crisis in the State of Tennessee that we must adhere to the most unreasonable policies in the country? There are 49 other states and well over 149 other countries that do not resort to universal carding policies. The government, specifically the Alcoholic Beverage Commission is imposing a solution that in no way aligns to the magnitude of the problem.

Second, universal carding at LBDs does not work. Many establishments here in Chattanooga have employed universal carding since the retail law changed for liquor stores on July 1, 2014. ABC agents routinely conduct underage stings and they always catch a server who fails to card or fails to properly read an ID. ABC’s own documentation has made my case for me, even when you employ universal carding underage people will occasionally get served.

Third, universal carding weakens the quality of carding when it matters. Servers are constantly toggling between real carding (the patron who looks to be under 30) and ridiculous carding (friends, family, and people who are clearly over 30). It’s only a matter of time before a server looks at an underage ID without paying attention because half the time you are just glancing at the ID to satisfy ABC. This happened recently at Clyde’s in Chattanooga. 

It would be more effective to tell servers, “only card when it matters and take every one of them seriously.” I pose this question to anyone who favors universal carding – how does carding patrons over 30 make you better at catching patrons under 21? 

Fourth, As Will alluded to on August 9th, universal carding is bad for tourism. It’s a big industry for our state and draws millions of visitors each year. We don’t come off as very good hosts when we demonstrate that Tennessee has done away with common sense. In addition to looking silly we have many situations where servers and managers flat out lie to tourists and tell them ‘It’s a state law’. I for one don’t think lying to tourists is a good way to represent Tennessee. Eventually we will lose some major convention business or even business relocation opportunities due to this policy.

Fifth, we are setting a very troubling precedent about the role of government. Universal carding says that you (the server) are not entitled to use your own knowledge or common sense. You are not allowed to simply know that your mother is older than you. You must see her state-issued ID. You are not allowed to safely reason that the man with the grey beard is at least a day passed his 21st birthday. You must ask to see his state-issued ID. ABC is effectively telling all of us that we are not allowed to think and we must rely on the state. The government can’t get much bigger and more intrusive than forcing you to abandon your own judgment.

The next time you see a 23-year-old server tell a 55-year-old man that she must see his ID, just remember that somewhere just down the street a 17-year-old is drinking the beer that his older brother bought him. This policy will ban common sense but it will not stop underage drinking.

The Tax Man Collects New Downtown Nashville Tax of 25 Cents on Every $100

By - July 17, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

We have found that many downtown Nashville businesses have been surprised by a relatively new tax levied for marketing Music City Center, Nashville’s $623 million dollar convention center.  The tax requires businesses in downtown Nashville to pay a fee of .25% on most sales.

The tax is collected by the Department of Revenue along with sales taxes.

The tax is levied on all sales, except the following:

  1. Professional services;
  2. Lodging provided to transients;
  3. Tickets to sporting events or other live ticketed events;
  4. Alcoholic beverages which are subject to the liquor by the drink tax in addition to sales tax;
  5. Newspapers and other publications; and
  6. Overnight and long-term parking.

In an odd quirk, beer is taxed, but not wine and spirits.  The new tax recognizes that liquor and hotel taxes are already high and does not increase their taxes.

Luke Bryan captures the mood in an early single:

My stereo cranked up
I can’t find my truck
How’d I get home from the club
Ain’t got a clue what went down
So I started calling around

The area subject to the new tax is the Downtown CBID and includes all properties within that area of the city bounded and generally described as follows:

Bounded on the east from Charlotte Avenue to Woodland Street, 1st Avenue North; from Woodland Street to Peabody Street, the Cumberland River. The southerly boundary is from the Cumberland River to Rutledge Street, the center line of Peabody; from Rutledge Street to Lafayette Street, the south property line of all parcels facing on the south side of Peabody Street; from the center line of Lafayette to the center point of the intersection of Peabody, Lafayette and 7th Avenue South; between 7th Avenue South and 8th Avenue South, the center line of Lea Avenue; from Lea Avenue at 8th Avenue South, southwardly along center line of 8th Avenue South to the northern edge of the right-of-way of the CSX Railroad; northward to the western edge of parcel #093-09-0-320. The westerly boundary is between Charlotte and Union, the center line of 6th Avenue North; between Union and Broadway, the center line of James Robertson Parkway and 9th Avenue North; from Broadway to the first parcel south of Demonbreun along the western property line of parcels #093-09-0-326, #093-09-0-327 and #093-09-0-331. The northerly boundary begins from Broadway at the western property line of parcel #093-09-0-326, the center line of Broadway to 10th Avenue North; from 10th Avenue North to 9th Avenue North, the northern property line of all parcels facing on the north side of Broadway; from the intersection of Union and James Robertson Parkway, proceeding east to 6th Avenue North; from 6th Avenue North to 3rd Avenue North, the northern boundary is Charlotte Avenue; from 3rd Avenue North to the Cumberland River, the northern boundary is James Robertson Parkway.

How Restaurants and Bars Can Avoid a Tennessee ABC Citation for Infusing

By - July 14, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Anyone following liquor-by-the-drink laws in Tennessee is familiar with the controversy over infusions.  We blogged about the infusion law here.

One key provision of the infusion law was that pre-mixed products were not treated as infusions.  The law specifies that infusions are “not intended for immediate consumption.”

In other words, if a restaurant or bar makes a concoction that has to steep for a while to be ready to serve, it constitutes an infusion and is subject to the infusion law.  A pre-mixed cocktail like bloody marys or sangria that is ready to consume once it is prepared is not an infusion.

Problem is, out in the field, ABC agents have no idea what is inside an unmarked jug of hooch.  Although the container could contain a pre-mixed cocktail, the agent cannot tell if the elixir is an illegal infusion or a lawful pre-mix.

We recommend that folks attach a simple label to pre-mixed cocktails to help Tennessee ABC agents and to avoid unnecessary citations.  Although the law does not require labeling pre-mixed cocktails, a very simple label with the name of the cocktail is strongly advised.  Best practices suggest that the label should also contain the expiration date of the pre-mix.

This can be as simple as masking tape and a sharpie.

Steve Miller Band’s comic tune “The Joker” comes to mind for absolutely no reason.

You’re the cutest thing
That I ever did see
I really love your peaches
Want to shake your tree
Lovey-dovey, lovey-dovey, lovey-dovey all the time
Ooo-eee baby, I’ll sure show you a good time

Why is My Tennessee Liquor Store Closed on the 4th of July and Other Holidays?

By - July 05, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Tennessee liquor laws often make no sense to consumers.  Why can’t I buy wine in a grocery store?  Why can’t I buy wine and spirits on Sundays at a liquor store, but I can buy a glass of wine or mixed drink at a restaurant or bar?

The short answer is politics.

For decades, Tennessee law limited ownership of retail liquor stores to single store mom and pop owners.  Albeit imperfect, the one store retail liquor law established a legal foundation for small business owners to be the only source for purchasing wine and spirits in Tennessee.

In a time-honored Tennessee legislative tradition, Tennessee liquor store owners paid enough money to hire a powerful lobbyists to protect their interests.

For a mom and pop store, being able to close on holidays is a major perk.  By law, liquor stores cannot open on the following holidays:

New Years
Fourth of July
Labor Day
Thanksgiving
Christmas

With state law prohibiting competitors from opening, mom and pops can comfortably take the day off.

For a liquor store owner, it is a nice fringe benefit.  For consumers, it makes absolutely no sense.

Kim Wilde’s underground 1980’s single “Kid’s in America” comes to mind:

Outside Suburbia’s sprawling everywhere

I don’t want to go baby

New York to East California

There’s a new wave coming I warn you

We’re the kids in America

Drinking Laws in Memphis: Tell Me More

By - July 01, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

According to our friends at Google, one of the most popular questions in Tennessee is about drinking laws in Memphis.

Memphis is near the top of our list for unusual liquor licensing laws.

In general, Tennessee liquor laws require that a restaurant, hotel or bar has to have a liquor license from the state and a beer permit from the city.  The state licensees wine and spirits and the city licenses beer.

In Memphis, the beer board is known as the Memphis Alcohol Commission.  Anyone that has obtained a beer permit in Memphis knows about sign posting, petitions and other quirks of licensing in Memphis.  As with many Tennessee cities and counties, the beer permitting process in Memphis is an exercise in red tape.

Don’t get us wrong. Memphis staff members Yolanda Fullilove, Aubrey Howard and Roane Waring are some of our favorite Tennessee licensing officials.

Memphis features the only area in Tennessee where open container laws do not apply.  Within the Beale Street historic district, patrons can carry an open container on public streets and between bars.  No special license is needed – the bar or restaurant just needs to be located in the historic district.

The special Beale Street law also authorizes the sale of alcohol after the typical 3 am last call.  State law allows Memphis to set last call on Beale Street, but currently, Beale Street closes at 3 am.

Blues pioneer WC Handy inked an appropriate tune:

I’ve seen the lights of gay Broadway,
Old Market Street down by the Frisco Bay,
I’ve strolled the Prado, I’ve gambled on the Bourse;
The seven wonders of the world I’ve seen,
And many are the places I have been,
Take my advice, folks, and see Beale Street first!

 

Tennessee Tax Man Releases New Form for Restaurants, Bars and other On-Premise License Holders

By - June 25, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The Tennessee Department of Revenue announced a new price schedule as part of an effort to modernize its forms and tax reporting.  All liquor-by-the-drink license holders have to file a price schedule.

Unbeknownst to most, the price schedule is critical evidence in a tax audit.  Incorrect pour amounts or prices can lead to massive tax assessments.  We have seen assessments of over $100,000 for an innocent error in the amount of each pour, for example.

An explanation of the new price schedule is here. 

The new price schedule is here.

Cheap Trick penned a classic about taxes:

You work hard, you make money
There ain’t no one in this world who can stop you
You work hard, you went hungry
Now, the taxman is out to get you

We encourage folks to make sure that price schedules are accurate and updated regularly.