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 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
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.
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
Maybe so, if you are a food store looking to renew your wine in grocery store license, which we affectionately call WIGS.
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.
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, what little we know about Commissioner Skiles. Respected journalist Tom Humphreys has a little more scoop here.
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.
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 HB0435.
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
Stay tuned for updates about the 2017 legislation session.
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
Just today, March 3, 2017, 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org