“Summer Nights” Topping the Charts at Tennessee ABC: “Tell Me More, Tell Me More”

By - February 14, 2013 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

We have been covering oodles of changes at the Tennessee ABC over the past few months. The transformation of ABC staff leadership has lead to a virtual metamorphosis in how the ABC operates.

The recent revision of rules has not always conjured up images of butterflies from caterpillars among license holders.

Today, just in time for Valentine’s Day, we confirmed that the ABC is requiring comprehensive disclosure from corporate liquor license applicants. For years, the ABC asked for limited disclosure from corporate applicants with detailed corporate structures. Disclosure was only required for the applicant company and two tiers of corporate parent owners.

The rules have changed. Now, the ABC is requiring officer, director and ownership disclosure up to the ultimate human owners of applicants. For publicly-traded companies, the inquiry stops at the public parent. It remains to be seen how the new disclosure rule will play out for passive equity investors.

Individual owners and small partnerships will see no change. In fact, by requiring full disclosure from complicated corporate applicants, the impact of the increased disclosure equalizes the playing field. Everyone has to fill out the pink forms – aka ABC Questionnaires.

The precise extent of disclosure has not been completely resolved, but applicants should expect to identify and most likely provide ABC Questionnaires on corporate officers and owners up to the ultimate human owners.

As John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John famously inquired:

Tell me more, tell me more
Did you get very far?
Tell me more, tell me more
Like does he have a car?

In all fairness to the ABC, we think the new rule makes sense.

Tennessee ABC Puts the Kibosh on Growlers of Beer

By - February 11, 2013 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The ABC has been pressuring brewpubs to stop selling growlers from the brewpub’s restaurant for several months.  There is a legal way to sell growlers of beer, but most brewpubs have been selling growlers illegally for years.

The problem recently made mainstream news on WSMV.

State law prohibits selling beer to go at an establishment licensed to sell liquor by the drink. Problem is, the law was apparently not enforced for over a decade. Almost every brewpub sold growlers to customers at the restaurant, in one form or another.

Tom T. Hall has his priorities straight about suds:

I like beer. it makes me a jolly good fellow
I like beer. it helps me unwind and sometimes it makes me feel mellow (makes him feel mellow)
Whiskey’s too rough, champagne costs too much, vodka puts my mouth in gear
This little refrain should help me explain as a matter of fact i like beer (he likes beer)

There are ways to legally sell beer at a brewpub, but the sale must occur outside of the area licensed for liquor. This is not practical for many brewpubs and we understand that growler sales have been suspended at several popular breweries.

Stand up for right to drink beer and stay tuned.

One Small Step for Tennessee Distillers, One Giant Leap for Whiskey Fans

By - February 06, 2013 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Today, February 6, 2013, history was quietly made. The Tennessee Distillers’ Guild was officially formed by the filing of a two page document with the State of Tennessee.

The filing of mundane legal paperwork marks the beginning of what may become one of Tennessee’s biggest tourist industries. Tennessee has a rich whiskey history that has recently seen tremendous growth in start-up distilleries and increasing global acclaim for whiskeys purveyed by Jack and George.

In the 1880s, whiskey was the number 1 industry in Tennessee. Prohibition destroyed the industry, and until a few years ago, state liquor laws only allowed Jack Daniels, George Dickel and Pritchards to follow the famous Volunteer State tradition.

Recent changes to state law have allowed a handful of distillers to open, with many more on the horizon. We see the organization of competitors, both old and new, as serious progress toward promoting a hugely important Tennessee tradition.

George Jones knows a little about Tennessee’s whiskey tradition and penned a classic song:

And you’re as smooth as Tennessee Whiskey
You’re as sweet as strawberry wine
You’re as warm as a glass of brandy
And I stay stoned on your love all the time

Kentucky makes much ado about its Bourbon Trail to tourists. With marquee brands like George Dickel and Jack Daniels, combined with a compelling whiskey heritage and scores of artisan distillers, Tennessee could easily eclipse its northern neighbor and become a destination for liquor lovers, much like Northern California has become for wine aficionados.