Nashville Tennessee Tax Man Victor by Default on Liquor Privilege Taxes

By - March 19, 2013 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Nearly everyone with a liquor license in Nashville has grumbled about large tax bills that suddenly landed in mailboxes last spring. The Metro Nashville Davidson County Clerk failed to collect privilege taxes for a couple of years.

Oops. It was only several hundred thousand dollars – maybe a million.

Mere mortals like you and I would expect a visit from Donald Trump and hear his famous line: “You’re fired.” Instead the clerk just sends out notices that three years taxes are due. To add insult to injury, the clerk asked for more than was legal under state law.

We blogged about the issue here and advised folks not to pay the taxes.

To its credit, Metro addressed the problem, moved the collection of LBD privilege taxes to the Metro Treasurer, and asked for the lawful amount. With Metro asking for the correct amount, we advised folks to pay current LBD privilege taxes, but not prior years.

The Metro Treasurer, citing standard accounting procedures, has been applying all payments to the oldest invoices. We have heard from several folks that regardless of what is in a licensee’s cover letter, or even written on the check, the payment is applied to back taxes. Even if  the payment is clearly sent for the current year. Metro then sends a letter demanding payment for current taxes.

You ask, what can I do about this atrocity? Practically speaking, nothing. Metro arguably can collect the back taxes. Most importantly, the amount of the taxes does not justify going to court and making your lawyer rich.

The Who captured our thoughts with this line from “Success Story”

Away for the weekend
I’ve gotta play some one-night stands
Six for the tax man, and one for the band

If anyone has a strategy to contest or avoid paying the back taxes, please e-mail

Will Wine in Tennessee Groceries Be Resurrected Before Easter Sunday?

By - March 18, 2013 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

We have a new Pope. Good Friday is just days away. The Belmont Bruins and MTSU Blue Raiders made March Madness. Anything is possible, right?

Tennessee House Representative Matthew Hill could be the savior for wine in groceries in Tennessee. Representative Hill voted for wine in groceries in a crucial House subcommittee meeting last week, but voted against wine last week, in what many viewed as the death of wine in Tennessee grocery stores for the year.

But rampant gossip from the Hill and political pundits suggest that Rep. Hill may reconsider his vote and support wine. Pith in the Wind speculates that Rep. Hill voted against wine to retaliate against another House member on an unrelated bill.

Having made his point, it is possible that Rep. Hill could re-animate the Cabernet corpse as early as this Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Companion wine legislation is moving forward in the Senate.

For those interested in the blow by blow, according to Pith, Rep. Hill “refused to send along a piece of far-right lunacy to make it a crime for United Nations representatives to observe elections in Tennessee. That bill, which was adopted in the committee Hill chairs, was sent back to another committee, the one chaired by Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol.

It was Lundberg’s idea, and Hill was outraged. He actually threatened to retaliate.

“Just remember, the vast majority of this committee is made up of fellow chairmen,” Hill said during that meeting. “Guess what? Your committee will probably be next.”

Lundberg also is the sponsor of the wine-in-supermarkets bill and, when he appeared before Hill’s committee this week, it was the perfect opportunity for Hill to strike back. So there you have it, dear Pith reader. To give Hill the satisfaction of spanking Lundberg and the rest of the House leadership, we all have been denied the convenience of buying wine in supermarkets.”

Popular Proletariat Respite Pigeon Forge Tennessee Votes for Hooch

By - March 15, 2013 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The tiny tourist town of Pigeon Forge has struggled with liquor by the drink for years.

Over 10 million tourists visit Pigeon Forge each year. The town’s theme park Dollywood hosts 2.5 million guests in a typical season and is the biggest “ticketed” tourist attraction in Tennessee.

But Pigeon Forge only has 5875 residents, as of the 2010 census. Tourism is by far the major employer, but Pigeon Forge residents have opposed liquor for generations. Unlike so many small tourist towns, Pigeon Forge dies not feature gambling. Some business leaders believe that not having liquor set Pigeon Forge apart from competing destinations.

Last fall, voters in Pigeon Forge voted for liquor by the drink. The election was thrown out by the courts and a new election was held March 14, 2013. In the March 14, 2013 election, Pigeon Forge voted 952 to 798 for liquor by the drink.

Drink up.

Wine in Groceries DOA in Tennessee. Goose Cooks Speaker?

By - March 12, 2013 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Hours ago, March 12, 2013, 15 House Local Government Committee members convened to decide the fate of wine in grocery legislation in Tennessee.  Would wine in groceries continue to advance toward passage? Could we finally Kroger for wine in Tennessee?

Judging from the crowds that have packed obscure legislative committee meetings this year, one would have thought the fate of the universe was at stake.

Turns out, the universe was saved, but wine was declared DOA.

Last week, Speaker Beth Harwell sent galactic shock waves by appearing at the House state and local subcommittee meeting and casting a tie breaking vote for wine. The Speaker’s vote allowed wine in grocery store legislation to advance for the first time in years.

Today, the Speaker lacked the votes to save wine in groceries. In a break from normal procedure, the committee rejected a request from the bill’s sponsor to defer the hearing. The Committee voted 8 to 7 against wine in grocery stores.

There was no need for the Speaker to vote. It takes a majority to move a bill forward, and the Speaker’s vote would have made it a tie.

The Goose, aka Tom Hensley, celebrated lobbyist for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, had a nail biter this year, but ultimately he prevailed. Barring a miracle, wine is dead for another year in Tennessee.

Strangers in the Night on Track to Open Liquor Stores in Metro Nashville Tennessee

By - March 07, 2013 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Nashville has required that all liquor store owners be Davidson County residents for nearly four decades. The longstanding rule is poised to fall in a few weeks.

In response to a Tennessee Attorney General opinion that declared Tennessee residency requirements for liquor store owners unconstitutional, Metro has decided to repeal its local residency law. For anyone suffering from insomnia, the full bill is here.

The new law will allow Nashville liquor stores to be owned by anyone that meets Metro’s strict criminal background check. The seemingly innocuous change could have big implications.

Particularly as out of state corporations like Kroger and Publix seek licenses for wine in grocery stores.

Stay tuned for more information.

Home Run for Wine in Groceries in Tennessee

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

Wine in groceries scored an impressive and unexpected victory today, March 6, 2013, at the Tennessee Legislature. House Speaker Beth Harwell cast a tie-breaking vote to move the wine bill out of a key House subcommittee. Many insiders expected wine to wither on the vine today – with the subcommittee killing the wine bill, as it had done in the past few years. WPLN’s Blake Farmer has the scoop.

Wine in grocery advocates were pumped up last week when the Senate state and local subcommittee passed the bill by a narrow 5 to 4 vote. Last week’s victory was a first for wine. Failing to pass bills out of committee is a time-honored way to kill legislation. Wine in grocery legislation has met its end in the House and Senate state and local subcommittees for years.

All this politicking makes us think of the Loretta Lynn classic:

While I’m at home a workin’
And a slavin’ this way
You’re out of misbehavin’
Spendin’ all of your pay
On wine, women and song.

For the first time in the wine battle, we see the possibility of wine in groceries becoming state law. There are plenty of obstacles ahead, but today’s vote was a game changer.

Keep in mind that passage of this year’s legislation will not mean that wine will be in grocery stores this summer. The proposed law allows local elections to authorize wine in grocery sales. Local option requires that voters in each city or county vote to approve wine in grocery stores at an election. The process will take months – if not years – to approve wine sales in groceries.

And last but not least, there are local restrictions that the wine in grocery legislation does not address, but will significantly limit the sale of wine in Kroger and Publix. Cities like Brentwood and Mt. Juliet limit the number of liquor store licenses. Nashville and other cities limit the location of liquor stores, which will prevent many groceries from adding wine because there is an existing liquor store nearby in the shopping center.

Local restrictions may make the wine in grocery victory meaningless for many cities.

Stay tuned for more news as this epic battle continues to play out.

I Like to Move It, Move It – Tennessee ABC Packing

By - March 05, 2013 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The Tennessee ABC has pretty much lived the famous – or infamous – Beatles song over the past couple of years:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution

The Nashville ABC is embarking on the newest phase of its revolution beginning March 4, 2013. Nashville ABC agents are packing and moving to what appears to be the new TABC offices on James Robertson Parkway.

Although the move is just a few blocks away, we expect that daily operations at the Nashville ABC will tarry.

Fancy word for slow down. Probably slow way down, at least for a while. Expect delays.