Here Is a Quick Fix for the Sales to Minor Problem in Tennessee Restaurants, Bars and Clubs

By - July 30, 2014 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Ask any restaurant, bar or club owner in Tennessee about recent stings for sales to minors.  With tough consequences, sales to minors is near the top of the worry list.

Cheap Trick’s classic tune Dream Police seems fitting:

The dream police
They live inside of my head
The dream police
They come to me in my bed
The dream police
They’re coming to arrest me
Oh no

Based on what we know, the stings involve undercover informants that produce driver’s licenses which clearly show the informant is under 21.  Problem is, servers and bouncers misread IDs and the informants order alcohol.

A second sale to minor in two years typically leads to two separate 14 or 15 day suspensions – one for liquor and one for beer.

Tennessee’s law about under 21 driver’s licenses is a big part of the problem.  Although underage drivers licenses are clearly marked as under 21, the licenses are valid for as long as three years after the person turns 21.

Instead of creating the impression that the person is too young to drink, servers are required to do math to determine if the person really is under 21.

The solution is easy.  Tennessee driver’s licenses should expire shortly after someone turns 21.  That way, almost no one with an under 21 license will be of age.

Other states have tackled this problem and we think Tennessee should change its laws to simplify carding.  Here are the laws in a few other


Arizona – Under 21 licenses not valid for alcohol sales 30 days after the 21st birthday.

Colorado – Under 21 licenses expire 20 days after the 21st birthday.

Idaho – Under 21 licensees expire 5 days past 21st birthday.

Kansas – Minor license expires on 21st Birthday.

Kentucky – Under 21 licensees expire 90 days past 21st birthday.

Michigan – Under 21 licenses expire on the 21st birthday.

Minnesota –  Under 21 licenses expire on the 21st birthday.

Montana – Under 21 licenses expire on the 21st birthday.

Nebraska – Under 21 licenses expire on the 21st birthday.

New Hampshire – Under 21 licenses expire on the 21st birthday.

Ohio – Under 21 licenses expire on the 21st birthday.

South Dakota – Under 21 licenses expire 30 days after the 21st birthday.

West Virginia – Under 21 licenses expire 30 days after the 21st birthday.

Wyoming – Under 21 licenses expire on the 21st birthday.

We are encouraging the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association to back legislation to make 21 year olds get new driver’s licenses at or closely after their 21st birthday.

If under 21 IDs expire at or close to the 21st birthday, servers can presume that the person is underage.  This significantly reduces the chances of math errors.

If legislation is introduced next winter, we will call on our loyal readers to contact legislators to get the law passed.  Stay tuned.

Tennessee ABC Defers Decision on New Payment Rule for Restaurants and Bars

By - July 22, 2014 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The death of the 10 day payment law for liquor purchases by restaurants and bars in Tennessee officially has an afterlife.  Zombie or Angel, the issue was on today’s July 22, 2014 agenda of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

During the eleventh hour of the 2014 legislative session, the long-standing 10 day credit rule was eliminated for on-premise liquor license holders.  We blogged about it here.

Elimination of the 10 day credit rule came as a surprise to the restaurant and hotel industry.  Conjures up the Gap Band’s classic 1982 hit:

You dropped a bomb on me, baby 
You dropped a bomb on me

The change has led to a host of problems for on-premise liquor license holders.  Fortunately, the ABC issued informal rules at the April 2014 meeting.  But there are issues with the informal rules.

We raised a few of the issues at today’s ABC meeting, and were joined by legal counsel to the Tennessee hospitality association and legal counsel to the wholesalers’ association.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Jones could not attend the meeting.  The issues were deferred until the August meeting on August 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm CDT.

Stay tuned as we cover this important issue.

Are Tennessee Liquor Stores in for a Bad Romance with Beer, Cheese & Corkscrews?

By - July 17, 2014 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Beginning July 1, 2014, Tennessee liquor stores can sell beer, cheese, corkscrews and many other items.  Before passage of wine in grocery stores, which we affectionately call WIGS, liquor stores could only sell wine, spirits, lottery tickets and cash checks.

Lady Gaga gets the dilemma

I want your love and
All your lover’s revenge.
You and me could
Write a bad romance.

Liquor store owners are not going to get rich from selling low-profit items like Budweiser and Fritos.  We see the right to sell additional items as more about marketing and retaining traffic flow in stores than making up for lost profits from losing Yellow Tail sales to WIGS.

This month’s Tennessee ABC agenda has a handful of retail liquor store owners seeking approval to consolidate beer and liquor store operations.  The ABC must approve expansion of a liquor store premises if the owner wants to include an adjacent beer store or other expansion space.

Embracing WIGS is an enormous challenge for Tennessee retail liquor stores.  We wish owners well as they embrace previously-forbidden merchandise and prepare to compete against the goliath grocery stores.

Adding fuel to the fire is strong consumer demand for wine to be legalized in groceries sooner, like July 1, 2015.

Why the New Wine in Grocery Law Leaves Gas Stations and Convenience Stores High and Dry in Tennessee?

By - July 15, 2014 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Most folks knew that pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS were left out in the cold under Tennessee’s Wine in Grocery Store law, which we affectionately call WIGS.  The 20% food requirement dashed the hopes for wine in Walgreens.

Problem is, the 20% food requirement may also prevent almost all convenience stores from selling wine.

Somehow, the undecipherable lyrics to Mac Arthur Park come to mind:

Someone left the cake out in the rain
I don’t think that I can take it
Cause it took so long to bake it
And I’ll never have that recipe again
Oh, nooo!


Convenience stores benefit from the exclusion of gas sales.  Gas has a separate tax that does not count as taxable sales under the WIGS law.

But the definition of food sales leaves convenience stores high and dry for wine.  Food is defined as items that are taxed at the lower food tax rate, like flour, sugar, bread and other grocery items used to prepare food.  Ready to eat food items – think hot dogs, chips and other snack foods, and Coke and Red Bull, are excluded from the definition of food for purposes of the 20% food requirement.

We expect many businesses, including convenience stores, to ask the Tennessee Legislature to tweak WIGS to treat everyone fairly.  WIGS was an ugly truce reached at the height of a bloody battle.  When the dust settles, we see WIGS being tweaked to take care of many folks that were excluded from WIGS.

Stay tuned.

Memphis to Benefit from Tennessee Distillery Law

By - July 11, 2014 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

D. Canale & Co. announced plans to resurrect the classic Memphis whiskey brand “Old Dominick.”  The distillery and tasting room will be at 301 South Front Street, across from Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.

The distillery was named for the company’s founder, Dominick Canale, great-great grandfather of Chris Canale, president of D. Canale & Co.  “We are so eager to be back in business in the city our family has called home for over 150 years,” Canale said.  Read more at The Memphis Business Journal.

Distilleries have been opening across Tennessee following recent changes in state law.  From what we know, Old Dominick is the first for Memphis.

The classic 1964 Roger Miller hit comes to mind:

Chug-a-lug Chug-a-lug
Make u wanna holla hidy hoe,
Burns your tummy don’t you know
Chug-a-lug chug-a-lug

Cutting Edge Craft Cocktails Test Boundaries of Liquor Laws in Tennessee and Other States

By - July 08, 2014 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

A fabulous panel of mixologists that are upping the ante for cocktails were featured at this year’s 2014 National Conference of State Liquor Administrators “NCSLA” conference. But the creative concoctions are pushing the boundaries of many state laws, including Tennessee.

The art of the craft cocktail was largely lost during Prohibition, when tipplers turned to substandard illegal spirits for a quick buzz at illicit speakeasys.

Recently, fashionable barkeeps have revived the lost art of the cocktail.  From Alchemy in Memphis, The Patterson House in Nashville, Easy Bistro & Bar in Chattanooga to Peter Kern Library in Knoxville, craft mixology is cool.

Warren Zevon captures the moment in one of our favorites, Werewolves of London:

I saw a werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s
His hair was perfect
Aaahoo! Werewolves of London
Draw blood
Aaahoo! Werewolves of London

One hot trend is barrel aging cocktails – mixing large batches of drinks and aging them for 4 to 6 weeks in a used oak whiskey barrel.  Avoiding fruit or other ingredients that are health issues, barkeeps age craft cocktails like Manhattans or bacon old fashioneds.

Barrel aging improves consistency and is much faster to serve than scratch made cocktails.  Cocktail enthusiasts say that barrel-aged cocktails are more flavorful, better-blended and delicious.

In Tennessee, for example, barrel-aging cocktails probably runs afoul of Tennessee’s recent efforts to restrict infusions.  See Section 9 of the attached new Tennessee law on infusing.  Although a bit ambiguous, we read the law as restricting infusing to 240 hours, which is a clever way of saying you must sell all infused product within 10 days.  Not long enough for barrel aging.

Hot tea drinks are also in vogue.  Bar flies enjoy the vapors and tastes of bourbon, berry and tea.

Punch cocktails are being elevated from the frat house to fashionable canteens.  One Manhattan watering hole features 10 craft punch mixtures in drink machines on Wednesdays, and then serves the concoctions for the rest of the week, until it is gone.  As long as the mixture is moving in the drink machines, the NYC health department says no bacteria can grow.  Punch is delivered to tables in a punch bowl, allowing for speedy service and well-blended flavors for a group cocktail.

In Tennessee, we hear from reliable sources that the ABC has been gathering information about bitters at several high-end cocktail purveyors.  Bitters is defined as “a liquid, often an alcoholic liquor, in which bitter herbs or roots have steeped, used as a flavoring, especially in mixed drinks, or as a tonic.” 

House-made bitters are a key component for most craft cocktail enthusiasts.  From what we know, house-made bitters present thorny issues under both federal and Tennessee laws.  Stay tuned for more information.