Do I Need A Liquor License to Serve Wine in Tennessee?

Do I Need A Liquor License to Serve Wine in Tennessee?

Liquor laws in Tennessee are complicated and even we sometimes get things wrong.  We thank Keith Bell, the Director of the Tennessee ABC, for corrected this post about complementary wine

Everyone in the restaurant and bar business knows you must have a liquor license to sell wine and spirits.  It's a crime to sell liquor without a license.

Outside the hospitality industry, a surprising number of businesses think nothing of "giving" away a glass of wine at a spa, hair stylist or nail shop.  Of course, you only get that free wine if you purchase something.  I can't walk in off the street and expect a glass of wine for free.

Until recently, these folks were selling liquor without a license.  Committing a crime.

The Beastie Boys' debut album sums it up:

Most illingest be-boy, I got that feeling
'Cause I am most ill and I'm rhymin' and stealin'

Unbeknownst to us, the law was changed to specifically allow the service of complimentary beer, wine and spirits to customers at a business licensed as a cosmetologist.   Here is the Cosmetology alcohol serve law.  The law specifically allows hair dressers and other licensed cosmetologists as follows: "wine, beer, liquor or alcoholic beverages may be served to a patron without a charge, but no such beverages shall be served to a patron who is intoxicated or believed to be intoxicated;"

Although cosmetologists can serve complimentary liquor, other businesses do not have the same authorization.  We believe that another popular practice is probably illegal.  There is nothing wrong with inviting some friends over to your house and giving them some free booze.  Doing the same at your business, however, raises questions.

Giving away wine at a store or other business is a marketing tactic.  Although the patron is not required to purchase anything, the goal is for the business to make sales.

We advise caution any time a commercial purpose is associated with complimentary beer, wine or spirits.

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