AAIAC

The Alliance of Alcohol Industry Attorneys & Consultants is a select organization of alcoholic beverage licensing and compliance professionals.

When is Happy Hour Not so Happy In Tennessee?

The rules on Happy Hour in Tennessee can drive you to drink.  Make that a double.

Nothing good seems to happens after 10 pm, or at least so thinks the Tennessee state legislature. After 10 pm, bars cannot:

sell or serve more than one drink at a time pour more alcohol for the same price

The exceptions to the rules make it fun – for sick folks that like obtuse facts, like lawyers.

First of all, beer is happy, day or night.  Happy hour rules do not apply to beer.

Half price cocktails and other drink discounts are timeless.  Tennessee ditched the old rule that prohibited discounting drinks after 10 pm.

2-4-1 is tricky.  Although you can discount drinks until close, you cannot serve 2 drinks to a customer after 10 pm.

And speaking of doubles, bring it on, as long as the price for a second shot is the same, day or night.  Offering discounted doubles after 10 pm can violate the rule against pouring more alcohol for the same price after 10 pm.

Be careful with drink chips and other free drink promotions.  Tennessee state law prohibits giving away wine or spirits.  You can do 2-4-1 with a drink chip, as long as the chip is redeemed by 10 pm.  Redeem the chip after 10 pm and you violate happy hour laws.  If the customer tries to redeem the chip for a drink on the next day, you are giving away liquor and can be cited.

Beware of bottomless mimosas, bloody mary’s and other cocktails.  Serving too many drinks for a fixed price can violate the rule against giving away liquor.  You can also get folks drunk.  State law prohibits serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person.

I know, isn’t that the whole purpose for going to a bar anyway: to get drunk?

We have been quietly humming the Ren & Stimpy oh-so-sarcastic theme song whilst posting this happy hour nonsense:

Happy Happy Joy Joy
Happy Happy Joy Joy Joy
I don’t think you’re happy enough. That’s right! I’ll teach you to be
Happy. I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs
Happy Happy Joy Joy…

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Landlords with Percent Rent from Liquor Get Some Love from Tennessee ABC

By - September 19, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Landlords know this problem all too well. The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission calls a landlord an “indirect owner” if the landlord that receives 5% or more in percentage rent from the sale of alcohol.

The ABC requires that the landlord file an ABC questionnaire for the landlord company.  Recently, the ABC has been requiring that at least one corporate officer of the landlord also file an ABC questionnaire.

Landlords are understandably concerned about having an “indirect interest” in a liquor license.  Landlords generally have nothing to do with the sale of alcohol, other than an arms-length lease to a tenant that holds an alcoholic beverage license.  Filing a questionnaire or otherwise “being on the liquor license” raises concerns that a plaintiff might sue the landlord in a dram shop action for liquor liability.

In addition, ABC questionnaires require officers to divulge confidential personal information, including a social security number.

We are pleased to announce that the ABC recently discontinued ABC questionnaires for landlords having percent rent.  Instead, the ABC published the “Landlord Interest Affidavit.”

The Landlord Interest Affidavit dispatches with personal information and is limited to factors that would disqualify a landlord from receiving rental income from the sale of alcohol.

Snoop Dogg’s classic “Show Me Some Love” seems appropriate:

You don’t show me some love
(show me love, for real, you gets no love, yea)
You gets no loving babe 
(you gets no love, you ain’t gonna miss it till it’s gone) 

We applaud the ABC for responding to this industry concern and showing some love to landlords.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Roll Out the Red Tape for Tennessee Retail Liquor and Grocery Stores: Background Checks Now Mandatory

Anyone that has applied for a liquor license for a grocery or retail liquor store in Tennessee understands red tape. We purchase the stuff by the truckload around here. We seem to consume more red tape than oxygen and bourbon – combined.

Starting July 1, 2017, applications for Certificate of Compliance in Tennessee must be filed with national and local background checks. The new Tennessee law requires that:

Each applicant or officer … must obtain and submit with the certificate a local and national criminal history record obtained from a third party using a multistate criminal records locator or similar nationwide database with validation.

The background checks are to prove that the applicant or officer has not been convicted of felony in the last 10 years. Read the full text here PC 357.

Problem is, seems only a handful of folks in Tennessee know about the new requirement. We are advising liquor and food store owners to submit the background checks, even if the city says they are not required. It is, after all, state law.

Questions abound.

Who is required to submit the background checks? Certainly not every corporate officer of a publicly traded company. Do we just pick the people? If so, seems to be a great way to hide your favorite felon.

What is a local background check? For that matter, what is a “national criminal history record?”

We recommend satisfying the local requirement by filing a TBI background check. TBI checks cost $29, can be run online and do not require fingerprints. Results are back in days, if not hours. Start the process here. We can see some cities requiring their own police or other “local” background checks.

National background checks require a little more effort. We had to become qualified to pull them.

Plan in advance. At this juncture, no one knows what each city will want.

The new requirement could be a train wreck for unsuspecting liquor store owners and grocers looking to renew. Certificates of Compliance must be renewed every two years. The weeks leading up to July 1, 2018 will be particularly hectic, with several hundred certificates coming due on the two year anniversary of WIGS – Wine In Grocery Stores.

Not sure why, but we find ourselves humming the Grateful Dead train crash tune:

Driving that train, high on cocaine,
Casey Jones you better watch your speed
Trouble ahead, trouble behind
And you know that notion just crossed my mind

We hope the kinks are resolved long before 2018.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Metro Nashville Beer Board Shakes it Off

By - July 21, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Major change is afoot at the Metro Nashville Beer Board.

After several years of dedicated service, longtime Beer Board Chair Anne Arney “retired.” Like most Tennessee beer boards, Nashville’s board is lead by volunteers, appointed by the mayor.

Brian Taylor was elected chair by the board at the June 28, 2017 meeting.

Executive Director Jackie Eslick, the head honcho of the paid staff, moved to another Metro position. Benton McDonough has been tapped Interim Director.  For betting types, odds are good Mr. McDonough’s position will become permanent.

We thank Ms. Arney and Ms. Eslick for serving the Metro Beer Board all these years.

Liquor licensing experts like consistency. Tell us how to get a license and we can follow a predictable road map to obtain the approvals to stock the bar.

But change is inevitable and licensing specialists have to be adept. Taylor Swift celebrates the skills of licensing stars in mega-hit “Shake it Off”

I never miss a beat, I’m lightning on my feet
And that’s what they don’t see, that’s what they don’t see
I’m dancing on my own, I make the moves up as I go
And that’s what they don’t know, that’s what they don’t know

So far though, we like what we see.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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What’s On Your Wall?

By - May 19, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Restaurant and hospitality insiders call it the wall.  You know, the place where you have to publicly display your liquor license and other stuff the State of Tennessee issues.

Where hear it all to often from restaurant, bar and hotel owners: what signs do I have to post on the wall?

Here is what Tennessee state law requires you to publicly post:

ABC Liquor License City or County Beer permit Certificate of Registration City Business License County Business License Certificate of Occupancy Most recent Health Inspection Report ABC pregnancy warning sign

If you want to prohibit licensed gun owners from packing heat at your watering hole, post the universal no gun sign at every public entrance and exit.

The 1971 political “Signs” by one hit wonder 5 Man Electrical Band rings in our ears:

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Many cities require that you post the fire occupancy or other fire marshal approval. Your local city may also require additional signs, and we encourage you to look around at what thy neighbor does.  If several  area restaurants post a sign that is not on your wall, you might ask whether you should add the sign to your collection.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Drink, Drank, Drunk. Drinking 23 Hours 7 Days a Week Headed to Tennessee

By - May 03, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

For the first time ever, you can belly up to the bar after last call at two Nashville restaurants  – The Diner and The Scoreboard. Thanks to legislation inked by Tennessee Governor Haslam just hours ago, the two watering holes can sell beer, wine and spirits from 4 am in the morning until the following 3 am.  Seven days a week.  The bars only close for one hour – from 3 until 4 am.

We have heard from scores of businesses asking how they get added to the list.  Folks are inquiring, why are these two places given a license to mint money after hours.

Sorry Charlie. Diner and Scoreboard employed fantastic legislative strategy, hired a lobbyist extraordinaire and changed state law. With the Tennessee legislature adjourned until next year, no one will be following in their footsteps until at least spring 2018.

Proponents of the law say that allowing late night bar service at these two venues is a “test case” to see how it works.  The Diner in SoBro Nashville and the Scoreboard near Opryland Hotel can serve thousands of bartenders, waiters and other service industry personnel that work late nights and might want to quaff a cold one after quitting time.

Revelers are required to forgo drinking for an hour before bellying up to the bar at 4 am.  Both of the restaurants will serve meals at 3 am, to encourage late night dining before drinking commences again.

Of course, Hank Williams Jr. crones the perfect lines – from Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound:

Sure enough about closin’ time
‘Bout stoned out of my mind
And I end up with some honkytonk special I found
Just as sure as the mornin’ sun comes
Thinkin of my sweet girl at home
And I need to get whiskey bent and hell bound

Stay tuned for more news from the 2017 legislative session.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Tennessee Liquor Team Welcomes Baby Girl

By - May 01, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Many of our loyal readers know Beth Frasch, who is charged with the near impossible task of keeping yours truly, as well as managing the workflow for the Bone McAllester alcoholic beverage team.

Beth’s family welcomes baby Riley Hayden Frasch, born 4:55 pm Wednesday April 26, 2017.

 

Riley weighed in at 9lbs 9oz, just like her sister Hannah, and measured 191/2 inches long.

We wish the Frasch family well, although Beth is sorely missed here in the salt mine.

Forgive us whilst we get a wee bit sappy, thinking about a tune crooned by Martina McBride and written by one of Willa’s friends:

And when she wraps her hand around my finger,
How it puts a smile in my heart,
Everything becomes a little clearer,
I realize what life is all about,
It’s hanging on when your heart is had enough,
It’s giving more when you feel like giving up,
I’ve seen the light,
It’s in my daughter’s eyes

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Early Bird Gets The WIGS?

Maybe so, if you are a food store looking to renew your wine in grocery store license, which we affectionately call WIGS.

What gives?

Picture this.  Several hundred grocery stores all filed applications to obtain liquor licenses to sell wine beginning July 1, 2016.  The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, acting with near superhero powers, pre-approved WIGS applications in droves in June, allowing grocers to stock and prepare for the first day of wine sales.

This worked perfectly for the historic debut of WIGS on July 1, 2016.

Problem is, all those liquor licenses expire on the same date – July 1, 2017.  We see a train wreck in the making if human nature prevails and the vast majority of food stores wait until the last minute to try to renew WIGS licenses.

Conjures up the bizarre ode about Casey Jones’ untimely death saving the lives of scores of train passengers, often sung by Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead:

Mrs Casey when she heard the news
Sitting on her bedside, she was lacing up her shoes
Children, children now hold your breath
You will draw a pension at your Papa’s death

We strongly encourage food stores to file applications for WIGS renewals as soon as possible.  For dilatory filers, our crystal ball conjures up images of headaches, red tape and possible interruptions in sales.

Fortunately, the ABC gave the industry a heads up about WIGS renewals and provided helpful instructions.  Read the FAQs here WIGSrenewal.  We will continue to update WIGS renewals as July 1, 2017 D-Day approaches.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Tennessee ABC Names New Commissioner

Richard Skiles was named the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commissioner for the Western Section of Tennessee at the April 6, 2017 TABC meeting. Commissioner Skiles replaces Mary McDaniel, which we blogged about here.

Commissioner Skiles hails from the Home of the White Squirrel, Kenton, located in northwest Tennessee near Union City. We understand that Randy Boyd also calls Kenton home, which may have a little something to do with Commissioner Skiles’ appointment. Mr. Boyd is the former Commissioner of Economic Development and a personal friend of Governor Haslam.

Commissioner Skiles is also from Representative Bill Sanderson’s district. Representative Sanderson is Chair of the House State Government Subcommittee, a position of some power, and also well-versed in alcoholic beverage law. Representative Sanderson owns a winery and is pals with Michael Ballard, purveyor of Full Throttle Sloonshine.

At this point, we know have no information about Commissioner Skiles, but stay tuned for more info.

We make a rare departure from quoting a raucous song to leave you with some trivia about the home of the white squirrel, courtesy of Wiki:  Kenton is one of four communities in the United States that has a large population of albino squirrels. In 2006 the population was estimated at 200, or about one for every six residents.  The town celebrates this anomaly with its annual White Squirrel Festival held during the week in which the Fourth of July falls.

And as long as we are gabbing about the TABC, well-placed sources tell us that the bill to increase the number of Commissioners from three to five is destined to become law. HB1294 has passed the Senate and is set for approval in the House. The bill adds two Commissioners, one appointed by the Speaker of each Chamber.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Tennessee Restaurants and Bars Celebrate Larger ABC Fines for Sales to Minors

By - March 17, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

We rarely hear business owners excited to pay more money to government.  But many Tennessee restaurants, bars and venues are eagerly supporting pending legislation to allow the ABC to increase fines for sales to minors to $10,000.

You can read the entire bill here HB 935

Reliable sources on the Hill say that the bill will become law.

Tennessee is well-known in the nation for under 21 ID stings.  The Tennessee ABC and local law enforcement have been quite successful citing liquor license holders for sales to minors.

Current law limits ABC fines to $1,500 for sales to minors.  Understandably, the ABC has favored suspensions for a second sale to minor within 2 years.  Many licensees have served 7 to 14 day suspensions for a second sale.  Most of the time, an ABC suspension also leads to a beer board suspension.

Industry has been clamoring for allowing the ABC to increase the fine for a second sale to minor – instead of devastating suspensions.

Our good buddy Willa reminds us of the classic John Conlee tune:

The bills are all due
The babies need shoes
I’m busted

Stay tuned for updates about the 2017 legislation session.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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How Do I Transfer a Liquor License When I Purchase a Restaurant or Bar in Tennessee?

By - March 12, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

We hear it all the time.  A top of the charts question is how do I transfer the liquor license when I purchase a restaurant or bar in Tennessee?

Here is a simple guide.

1. Liquor licenses in Tennessee are not bought and sold.  Unlike many states, liquor  licenses and beer permits are issued to any qualified applicant in Tennessee.  Licenses have no value.

2. When you buy a business that serves beer, wine and spirits, you have to obtain your own beer and liquor licenses.  You can be looking at a prolonged interruption in service if you fail to apply and obtain your own beer and liquor licenses.

3. Make sure you understand local beer board practices.  The rules vary widely from city to city.  For example, in Nashville, it is best to apply at closing, or the beer inspector may visit and tell you to stop selling beer.  Check with your local beer board before closing and make sure you know what you need to do to.  Most importantly, do what you are told by your local beer board.

4. The Tennessee ABC will accept an interim management agreement that allows you to “use” the seller’s liquor license.  The interim management agreement must have some magic language and we strongly advise that you file a copy of the agreement with the ABC at closing.  Otherwise, you risk the ABC revoking the license, which means an interruption in service.

5. Make sure you complete all the steps to obtain your own beer permit and liquor license.  Too often, we hear from well-intentioned purchasers that are facing an interruption in service because they do not obtain their own licenses.

Classic Hank Williams Jr. comes to mind:

Play me the songs about ramblin man
Put old Jim Beam in my hand
Cause you know I still love to get drunk
And hear country sounds

 

 

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Tennessee Restaurants, Bars and Hotels Be on the Alert for Immigration Raids

Just today, we heard from a restaurant that was “inspected” by agents looking for illegal immigrants and asking about proper documentation.  Scary stuff.  We understand that one or more Tennessee ABC agents lead the investigation.

Bone McAllester immigration expert Raquel Bellamy offers these Top 5 Immigration Tips for Employers.

Unauthorized immigration is a hot topic these days. Undocumented immigrants are roughly 5% of the U.S. civilian labor force, as reported by the Pew Research Center.  We suspect that many restaurants, bars and hotels have a much higher percentage of illegals.

Some employees give employers fake documents. Other employers intentionally hire undocumented immigrants, to gain a competitive advantage by offering lower pay and fewer protections. In the most egregious scenarios, employers falsify records and participate in labor trafficking by recruiting and smuggling workers from abroad (a big no no!).

A recent federal immigration executive order deputizes state and local law enforcement authorities to act as ICE agents.  Legally, TABC agents, local police and even beer board inspectors can now search your business for illegal or improperly documented immigrants.

Here are our top five immigration tips for employers:

1. Anticipate increased auditing of records to verify I-9 compliance. Locate and organize your records to avoid costly delays. You should have a completed I-9 for each employee.

2. Prepare for the inevitable by conducting an internal audit, which will help you identify any I-9 compliance issues.

3. Consult a competent employment attorney regarding any potential liability for violations of I-9 regulations.

4. Train front office staff (receptionists, hostesses, etc.) on how to respond to law enforcement officials who enter the premises to inquire about immigration violations. Know your rights to limit access of law enforcement officers.

5. Avoid discrimination based on national origin against potential employees. During the interview phase, limit your inquiry to whether the applicant is authorized to work in the United States and whether the applicant will require sponsorship to obtain work authorization. If an applicant or a current employee is confused about work authorization, you should encourage him/her to seek independent counsel.

6. I know I said 5, but who doesn’t love a bonus? Show compassion for workers who are experiencing personal trauma as a result of the changes in immigration enforcement priorities. Even U.S. citizens may experience a high level of anxiety over the potential impact to their family members and friends. Be mindful of negative interactions between employees. Some of my clients have reported workplace harassment. In one instance, a worker was blackmailed by a co-worker who threatened to call ICE. Employers should be aware of any workplace intimidation and maintain a policy against bullying. Again, regardless of your position on the debate, we are all less safe when pockets of our population are particularly vulnerable.

Ray Stevens controversial tune “Come to the U.S.A.” seems timely:

If you thinkin’ about illegal immigration
Be careful when you’re choosin’ the nation
‘Cause breakin’ the law in some countries is frowned upon.
Imagine that.

In a rare bit of shameless self-promotion, we can help you make sure you are properly documented, in case agents come a knockin’.  Feel free to e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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And the Envelope Please…Oscars Not Alone in Accounting Problems: Tennessee Revenue Partially Shut Down for Liquor License Holders

Bone McAllester paralegal extraordinaire, Jennifer Maxey, tells us that the Tennessee Department of Revenue will not process new registrations for sales tax numbers, known as Certificates of Registration, until March 6, 2017.  Apparently, Revenue is the lucky recipient of a computer upgrade.

We understand that as long as a liquor license holder already has a sales tax number, Revenue can accept a new liquor-by-the-drink bond or bond rider.  Distilleries, wineries and breweries can also register new brands, as long as they already have a certificate of registration.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Survey Says: Tennesseans Want to Buy Wine in Groceries on Sundays

We figured that following passage of Wine in Grocery Store legislation, which we affectionately call WIGS, popular demand among consumers would lead to more changes in Tennessee law.

We blogged about pending legislation to legalize the sale of many wine coolers and niche products like sangria mixes in groceries and other food stores.  https://www.lastcalltn.com/tennessee-considers-more-wine-in-grocery-stores-with-legislation/

In our not so humble opinion, one of the biggest changes in Tennessee law is legalizing Sunday sales of wine in Kroger, Publix, Wal-Mart and other food stores.  We figure that the vast majority of shoppers would love to be able to buy wine on Sundays.

If Tennessee legalizes Sunday sales of wine in grocery stores, it seems only fair that liquor stores would also be allowed to open on Sunday.  Problem is, we think Tennessee liquor stores will oppose Sunday sales.

Based on our unscientific observations, Sunday is a big day for grocery shopping.  Grocers probably figure that many Sunday shoppers will put a couple of bottles of wine in their carts, if Sunday sales of wine are legal.  Sunday wine at a grocery is essentially an impulse purchase; if I can buy wine when I am Krogering on Sunday, great, if not, I am not going to trek back later in the week to buy wine from a grocery or a liquor store.

Tennessee liquor stores probably see Sunday sales as something they have to do, if food stores can sell wine.  But for a liquor store, being open on Sunday is not likely to draw many new sales.  Grocers already do huge business on Sunday.  Liquor store owners are closed.  Opening Sunday increases employee salaries and other liquor store expenses.

Plus, Tennessee restaurants could see a decline in wine sales from folks that cannot buy wine on Sunday, but want a glass with lunch or dinner.

Our buddy Willa reminds us of “Sunday in the South” by Shenandoah:

Mill worker houses lined up in a row, 
Another southern Sunday morning blow 
Beneath the steeple all the people have begun 
Shakin’ hands with the man who grips the gospel gun

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Tennessee Considers More Wine in Grocery Stores with Legislation

Wine in Grocery Store legislation, which we affectionately call WIGS, allowed Tennessee grocery stores to sell wine beginning July 1, 2016, with a food store license issued by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

WIGS was a messy compromise.  We expected that WIGS would be revised to fix thorny issues.

A bill pending in the 2017 Tennessee Legislature will change the legal definition of wine and, in our humble opinion, allow food stores to legally sell many wine coolers and wine cocktails that are already on shelves.

Here is the problem.  Current law says that wine sold by a grocery store must be:

the product of the normal alcoholic fermentation of the juice of fresh, sound, ripe grapes, with the usual cellar treatment and necessary additions to correct defects due to climatic, saccharine and seasonal conditions, including champagne, sparkling and fortified wine of an alcoholic content not to exceed eighteen percent (18%) by volume. No other product shall be called “wine” unless designated by appropriate prefixes descriptive of the fruit or other product from which the same was predominantly produced, or an artificial or imitation wine.

Are you asleep yet?  Seriously, the definition is so hopelessly complicated that in our opinion, it is pretty much unenforceable by the TABC.

Pending legislation expands the definition of wine to eliminate the controversy.

The Tennessee ABC describes the legislative change at Sections 4, 5, and 6 – Definition of Wine  SB695-HB435 Legislation Summary

The entire bill is here.  HB0435 HB0435

Paralegal extraordinaire Vicki reminds us of a fitting Kenny Chesney song:

Mama told them Jesus loves a sinner
His daddy said that music saved his soul
Between the rockers and the band
It’s a fitting promise land

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Tennessee Legislature Looks to Legion of Liquor Laws

The Tennessee state legislature is in session again and several changes are proposed for alcoholic beverages.  Our friends at Nashville law firm Gullet Sanford have done such a good job summarizing the biggest bill that we link to their post here.  http://gsrmalcoholicbeveragelaw.com/alcoholicbeveragecleanupbillfiled/

Here is a copy of the bill, for anyone having problems with insomnia.  http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/110/Bill/HB0435.pdf

Our good friend Willa reminds us of the Eric Church classic Drink in My Hand:

To fill it up, or throw it down
I got a forty hour week worth of trouble to drown
No need to complicate it, I’m a simple man
All you got to do is put a drink in my hand

Stay tuned as we continue our coverage of the 2017 legislative session.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Tennessee State Legislature Proposes to Sidestep Metro Nashville Beer Board Approval for Restaurants, Hotels and Other Liquor License Holders

As we read it, a bill pending before the Tennessee State Legislature would essentially bypass the Metro Nashville beer application process for restaurants, hotels and other establishments with an on-premise liquor license issued by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.  Just file an application, pay the $250 fee and you can serve beer.

The legislation is here HB0351.

The law also seems to eliminate the 100 foot distance requirement from houses, churches, schools and other disqualifying uses.  Metro Nashville requirements for beer applicants would not apply, based on our take of the bill.

The classic 1975 “I’m Just a Bill” Schoolhouse Rock Saturday morning cartoon lesson is compelling:

I’m just a bill
Yes I’m only a bill,
And I got as far as Capitol Hill.
Well, now I’m stuck in committee
And I’ll sit here and wait
While a few key Congressmen discuss and debate
Whether they should let me be a law.
How I hope and pray that they will,
But today I am still just a bill.

Frankly, we hope the legislation gets stuck in committee.  We are not a fan of state laws that eliminate local laws.  Although we would love to see Metro Nashville modernize the beer laws and the beer application process, Metro Nashville can and should do so by passing a city ordinance.

We also see the legislation as yet another step by the state to eliminate local beer boards.  For decades, Tennessee law has given cities and counties considerable leeway to decide how and where beer can be sold.  Tennessee beer laws and beer boards are often cumbersome for businesses to navigate, but are an important local control over alcoholic beverages.

For example, the 100 foot distance requirement in Metro Nashville has been the subject of considerable debate.  Currently, a restaurant that is too close to a house, church or school has to publish a public notice and have their local council member introduce a city law to waive the requirement.  In our humble opinion, Nashville should decide the fate of the distance requirement.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Which Employees Can My Restaurant or Bar Legally Tip?

We hear lots of questions about tipping.  Can I include kitchen staff in tips?  Can food runners share tips?  What about my sushi chef?

Restaurants, bars, caterers and venues often surprise us with innovative ideas about tipping employees.  Unfortunately, tipping has not so clear laws about who can – and more importantly – who cannot share in tips.

Bone McAllester employment guru Anne Martin gives this sage advice.

There are three basic factors to consider when determining if you can share tips with an employee:

Does the employee meaningfully participate in the customer experience? Is the employee part of management, which is undefined but disqualifies tipping? Is the position customarily and regularly tipped in the industry?

Whether an employee can be tipped really depends on specific job duties.  Servers and bartenders can clearly be tipped.  Prep chefs and bus boys generally cannot.

In our humble opinion, the third factor, “is this a position that is normally tipped,” works against innovative entrepreneurs.  For example, some of our restaurant clients feature food prep as a key part of the customer experience.  Like innumerable cable food shows, watching your food being prepared is entertainment.

The roles of traditional servers and chefs, for example, have blurred in recent years.

In our experience, the law is slow to accept new practices.  Sharing tips with chefs and other food prep staff could be risky.

It all boils down to the specific facts.

We encourage folks with good questions to reach out to Anne with specific asks This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Anne really knows her stuff and is well worth paying for staying out of trouble.

A classic Michelle Shocked tune comes to mind, although wethinks Michelle is celebrating the jam that makes Music City famous, and not so much the sweet stuff you find at Loveless Cafe:

Yeah, we have a little revolution sweeping the land
Now once more everybody’s making homemade jam
So won’t you call your friends up on the telephone
You invite ’em on over, you make some jam of your own
You’ll be making jam
Strawberry jam
If you want the best jam
You gotta make your own

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Carding Sting for Tennessee Retail Liquor Stores Delivering Alcoholic Beverages

We recently learned of a new downside for Tennessee retail liquor stores delivering bottles of alcohol to customers.  The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission cited at least one off-premises license holder for delivering hooch to a confidential informant.

The sale to minor citation involved a call to the package store for delivery of a bottle of alcoholic beverages to a nearby hotel.  The store took the order, processed a credit card and sent an employee to deliver the booze.  We understand that the employee met the “customer” in the hotel lobby and carded the “customer.”

Unfortunately for the retail store, the employee misread the age and completed the sale by delivering the bottle to the underaged informant.  The ABC issued a citation for sale to minor.  Based on what we know, the informant presented an authentic Tennessee driver’s license with a red box around the photo, indicating that the informant was under 21.

Time and time again, we remind license holders to train employees to focus on under 21 Tennessee IDs. Please, please please. The ABC is doing a great job with underage stings.  We recently blogged about 429 ABC sale to minor citations over the past year.

Willa brings up The Police’s 1983 massive hit:

Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you

E-mail us if you would like to learn more about our Red Box Carding techniques at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  The ABC is definitely watching you.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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Tennessee ABC Updated Citation List Shows Seriousness of Sales to Minors

We love that the new Tennessee ABC under Clay Byrd is committed to transparency.  A huge new development under Director Byrd’s leadership is compiling and releasing comprehensive reports of all ABC citations against license holders.

The most recent report is here.  The 98 page report summarizes citations from January 2016 through the first few days of January 2017.

Our rough count shows 429 sales to minor citations in just over a year.  The Tennessee ABC has deployed well-trained agents that, based on our casual observations, are successfully targeting large chains and independent restaurants, hotels and venues.

We strongly encourage license holders to double down on carding of Under 21 Tennessee driver’s licenses, which have a red box around the photo.  We have been teaching Red Box Carding to help prevent failing ABC compliance checks and encourage readers to let us know if they want more info about this tested ID technique.

Our friend Willa reminds us of Brad Paisley’s classic song “Alcohol”

I got you in trouble in high school
And college now that was a ball
You had some of the best times
You’ll never remember with me
Alcohol, alcohol

The report also shows $771,050 collected by the ABC in fines during the past year and a few days.  That hits your bottom line.

Be vigilant and please let us know if you want to focus on Red Box Carding.

Original author: William T. Cheek III
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