Tennessee liquor laws are hopelessly complicated, and the rules for sake are among the most byzantine.
Sake is rice wine. Is it wine under Tennessee law?
No. Wine must be made from grapes or other fruit to legally be wine in Tennessee. Rice is a grain.
Sake is clear and tastes like liquor. It must be liquor. Ever slammed a sake bomb? But sake is not distilled and is not a spirit under Tennessee law.
Sake is brewed. Is it a beer? It doesn’t have malt and hops and certainly doesn’t taste like Budweiser.
But voila, sake is beer under Tennessee law. Brewed from grain, like our favorite cereal in a can – beer.
Yes, Virginia, you can sell sake in your grocery or food store. Well, at least some kinds of sake.
Remember that pesky high gravity rule about beer? Beer under 8% by weight or 10.1% by volume can be sold in a grocery, food store or convenience market. Beer over 10.1% ABV must be sold in a liquor store.
Same rules apply for sake, because sake is beer under Tennessee’s tortuous liquor laws.
We ransacked what is left of our minds and turned up naught for songs about sake. But we couldn’t resist the Vapor’s infectious one hit wonder “Turning Japanese”
I’ve got your picture, I’ve got your picture
I’d like a million of them all round my cell
I asked the doctor to take your picture
So I can look at you from inside as well
And turning in and turning ’round
I think I’m turning Japanese
I really think so
The Tennessee ABC will be launching its new online system, RLPS, starting January 22, 2018. Zack Blair, Assistant Director for the Tennessee ABC, lead an informative session for industry members yesterday, December 5, 2017, where ABC staff previewed the system and answered questions.
Assistant Director Blair tells us that “The Commission is excited to be able to revolutionize and create more efficiency in licensing. We look forward to allowing customers to complete everything in an electronic form and provide them the ability to pay online.”
The new system, known as RLPS, becomes available on January 22, 2018 for users to:
· create accounts
· enter information, but not submit applications.
Starting February 1, 2018, RLPS goes live. At that point, all applications must be filed on RLPS.
This includes renewals.
The ABC will be scanning and uploading existing files. We expect this process to take some time. In the meantime, applicants may want to upload PDFs of documents to be referenced in existing files.
RLPS is being implemented without any additional user fees. We were pleased to learn that credit cards can be used without additional user fees, which we consider to be a hidden tax often assessed by regulatory agencies. Kudos to the ABC for eliminating these charges.
RLPS eliminates the need for notaries on questionnaires, declarations and many other documents. No authentication is required for information submitted in lieu of questionnaires and other documents.
TTB applicants will find RLPS familiar, as it is based on the same system.
The ABC is creating master files for licensees with multiple licenses, which we expect to be particularly helpful for large grocery stores filing WIGS renewals.
The cryptic lyrics to the 1969 hit song “In The Year 2525” come to mind:
In the year 2525, if man is still alive
If woman can survive, they may find
In the year 3535
Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie
Everything you think, do and say
Is in the pill you took today
The Metro Beer Board officially coronated Benton McDonough as Executive Director at its November 2, 2017 meeting. Could Sainthood be next?
Director McDonough and Board Chair Brian Taylor have certainly been busy rocking the boat with new changes at the Metro Beer Board.
Hold on to your pacemaker for this one: the Metro Beer Board now accepts personal checks and business checks. This is in addition to authorizing credit cards, which was a huge change earlier this year.
For over two decades, we have been advising folks to take exact change or cashier’s checks to pay application fees, the $100 privilege tax and fines. No more for brew-slinging Music City businesses.
Check this one out. The Beer Board Staff now has the authority to issue a temporary beer permit – without Beer Board approval. Once your beer permit application is complete, you automatically qualify for a temporary beer permit. No more timing final inspections with Metro Beer Board meeting dates.
If that’s not enough, yesterday the Beer Board announced that staff will expand the hours for taking calls to answer general questions regarding beer permits applications, from 7:30 a.m. until Noon Central Time, Monday through Friday. The Beer Board can be reached at 615.862.6751.
Nashville favorite Luke Bryan captures the mood in his hit “Drink a Beer”
So I’m gonna sit right here
On the edge of this pier
Watch the sunset disappear
And drink a beer.
In case you have not gotten the message, the Metro Beer Board ditched the daily proration of privilege taxes and now accepts monthly proration of privilege tax. See the chart to calculate the amount for your new beer permit fee:
Please note that the fee is not due when a temporary beer permit issues. You only pay the fee after the Metro Beer Board has issued you a final beer permit.
Keep in mind that the fee for a renewed beer permit, also known as the annual privilege tax, remains $100.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Restaurant, hospitality and grocery 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.
We hear it all too often from restaurant, bar, hotel, liquor store and grocery store owners and managers: 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
Liquor and grocery stores also have to post the Responsible Wine Vendor letter, which is renewed annually with the liquor license.
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 tune “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.
For the first time ever, revelers can legally 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 (May 12, 2017), 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.
In a nod to moderation, wassailers 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.
At the eleventh hour, the legislation was amended to include restaurants and bars statewide, meaning that bars could be open 23-7 from Bristol to Bartlett. We figured New Orleans-style hours would either kill the bill or quash talk about adding other establishments.
Clearly, other nightclubs, restaurants and bars could benefit from the expanded hours. But all night liquor service is controversial – even in downtown Nashville. Memphis can already host 24-7 liquor service on Beale Street, but the city has voluntarily limited last call to 3 am for over a decade.
Although the list of 23-7 bars is set in stone until 2018, we see continued clamoring to be added to the list. Problem is, where to draw the line when considering what establishments should serve after 3 am.
Of course, Hank Williams Jr. croons the perfect lines:
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.
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.
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