The Alliance of Alcohol Industry Attorneys & Consultants is a select organization of alcoholic beverage licensing and compliance professionals.
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Will Metro Nashville Beer Board enforce health violations for COVID?


Jun 16, 2020

Folks are all abuzz about the June 18, 2020 “Emergency Meeting” of the Metro Nashville Beer Board.  The Beer Board has cited the following: 

Moxy Downtown Kid Rock’s Broadway Brewhouse Downtown Nudie’s

Click for a copy of the notice of the meeting

Bar owners are seemingly chanting a uniform query:  How can the Beer Board do this? 

Although we enjoy zealously defending bar owners, in this case we believe the Metro Beer Board has the authority to enforce health laws.  There are a number of provisions in the Metro Code that support the issuance of a fine or suspension or revocation of a beer permit. 

Like almost every other beer board in the state, the Metro Beer Board has general enforcement authority over public health, safety and morals. 

We understand constitutional concerns. This is, after all, the United States of America. However, we see these as better suited for the courts or the ballot box; rather than beer boards.

There has been considerable chatter about the blanket ban against bar seating.  Although we concur with our buddy Barrett Hobbs that a bar can be set up to be safely socially distant, we believe the Health Department is attempting to issue guidelines that are simple to understand and clear to enforce. 

We find that businesses sometimes respond to enforcement actions with a similar refrain:  “Well, I had no idea . . .”  It is easy to understand a rule that closes seating at bars.  No explanation is needed. 

Although we can envision different rules to protect health safety, the Health Department is the ultimate arbiter of public safety and we find ourselves deferring to their judgment.

Here is our thinking concerning provisions that support the Beer Board citing restaurants and bars for health violations. 

7.08.040 - Application—Requirements and conditions. We look at these requirements as being continuing duties; not just at the time you apply.

B. To be eligible for a permit, the applicant shall establish the following: 1. That no beer will be sold except at places where such sale will not cause congestion of traffic or interference with schools, places of worship, or other places of public gathering, or otherwise interfere with public health, safety and morals;

7.08.090 B. No permit shall be issued to any person for a location which fails to comply with any health ordinances or any regulation of the department of health or which would violate any zoning ordinance of the metropolitan government.

7.08.110 - Suspension and revocation of permit—Authority.

A. The metropolitan beer permit board shall have the power to revoke or suspend, and shall be charged with the duty of revoking or suspending, any permits issued by it, upon notice to the permittee and a hearing thereon, for any violation of any provision of state law regulating the sale, storage and transportation of alcoholic beverages or for any violation of any provision of this code or any other ordinance of the metropolitan government or of any private act, county court resolution or City of Nashville ordinance which has the effect of an ordinance of the metropolitan government regulating beer or other intoxicating beverage

And last but not least:

7.08.150 - Suspension and revocation of permit—Civil penalty options.

B. Revocation, suspension or imposition of a civil penalty may be made where it appears satisfactorily that the premises of any person, firm or corporation holding a beer permit under this chapter are being operated in such manner as to be detrimental to public health, safety and morals.

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