Here is an Easy Way to Card in Tennessee: Take the Math Out of Carding for Sales to Minors

By - February 19, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Sales to minors is the number one issue facing Tennessee restaurants, bars and venues.  The Tennessee ABC has stepped up compliance checks.  Despite best efforts, even seasoned servers and bartenders are failing.

Dedicated owners are serving suspensions of their liquor and beer permits.  State law now requires that beer boards and the ABC notify each other of suspensions, generally leading to two suspensions for the same sale to minor. The ABC now imposes a 14 day suspension for a second sale to minor in 3 years.

Veteran servers and bartenders are being criminally charged for selling to minors.  If convicted, the server or bartender cannot work in the industry in Tennessee for 8 years.

The consequences for failing a compliance check are serious for the business and the employee.

We looked into some possible changes for Tennessee drivers licenses and were taught an excellent lesson.  We thank Senator Bill Ketron and Micki Yearwood, Senior Legislative Advisor, for help on this issue.

You don’t have to look at the person’s date of birth and calculate if the person is over 21.

Each under 21 ID has a red box around the photo.  On the right hand side of the red box is the date that the person turns 21.  It is not as easy to read, but reading the date in the red box requires no math.  If you know today’s date, you can instantly tell if the person is old enough to purchase alcohol.

Not sure why, but a Tom Wait 1975 classic comes to mind:

warm beer and cold women, I just don’t fit in
every joint I stumbled into tonight
that’s just how it’s been
all these double knit strangers with
gin and vermouth and recycled stories
in the naugahyde booths

We have recently met with top ABC agents and the ABC Director about ABC compliance checks.  Based on our experience, the ABC uses informants that are actually under 21 and present an ID that clearly shows the informant is under 21.  No funny business.  These are clean stings where servers just make mistakes.

We encourage all Tennessee industry members to rethink how they card.  You do not need folks to know the born on date.  No math is needed.  Jut look at the date on the right side of the red box around the photo.

Do I Need A Liquor License to Serve Wine in Tennessee?

By - February 17, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Liquor laws in Tennessee are complicated and even we sometimes get things wrong.  We thank Keith Bell, the Director of the Tennessee ABC, for corrected this post about complementary wine

Everyone in the restaurant and bar business knows you must have a liquor license to sell wine and spirits.  It’s a crime to sell liquor without a license.

Outside the hospitality industry, a surprising number of businesses think nothing of “giving” away a glass of wine at a spa, hair stylist or nail shop.  Of course, you only get that free wine if you purchase something.  I can’t walk in off the street and expect a glass of wine for free.

Until recently, these folks were selling liquor without a license.  Committing a crime.

The Beastie Boys’ debut album sums it up:

Most illingest be-boy, I got that feeling
‘Cause I am most ill and I’m rhymin’ and stealin’

Unbeknownst to us, the law was changed to specifically allow the service of complimentary beer, wine and spirits to customers at a business licensed as a cosmetologist.   Here is the Cosmetology alcohol serve law.  The law specifically allows hair dressers and other licensed cosmetologists as follows: “wine, beer, liquor or alcoholic beverages may be served to a patron without a charge, but no such beverages shall be served to a patron who is intoxicated or believed to be intoxicated;”

Although cosmetologists can serve complimentary liquor, other businesses do not have the same authorization.  We believe that another popular practice is probably illegal.  There is nothing wrong with inviting some friends over to your house and giving them some free booze.  Doing the same at your business, however, raises questions.

Giving away wine at a store or other business is a marketing tactic.  Although the patron is not required to purchase anything, the goal is for the business to make sales.

We advise caution any time a commercial purpose is associated with complimentary beer, wine or spirits.

What is the #1 Concern for Tennessee Restaurants and Bars? Survey says: Sales to Minors.

By - February 09, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Ask anyone that holds a liquor license in Tennessee.  What is your #1 concern?  Survey says: Sales to Minors.

As we see it, sales to minors has become headline news for three reasons:

1.  State law now requires the ABC and beer boards to notify each other of suspensions for sales to minors.  This results in 2 suspensions for the same sale, almost always at different times.

2. For the first time we can remember, the ABC is fully staffed.  The ABC has enough agents to be consistently active in the field.

3. The ABC began to suspend licenses.  In the past, the ABC fined restaurants and bars, but did not suspend licenses unless the license holder was not trying to effectively card.  This meant that a business that had good training, written policies about alcohol service, required servers to card and fired employees that failed to card, for example, got a fine for a second or third sale to minor.

No longer.  The ABC typically suspends a restaurant or bar liquor license for 14 days for a second sale to minor within three years.  Package stores get a little leniency, with a 10 day suspension that can be broken down to a one week suspension with the rest served over one day a week, for example.

We do not fault the ABC and beer boards for conducting compliance checks.  Sales to minors is a huge issue for the alcoholic beverage industry.

Supposedly clean crooner Neil Diamond sings a suggestive song that is inappropriately appropriate:

Girl, you’ll be a woman soon
Please, come take my hand
Girl, you’ll be a woman soon
Soon you’ll need a man

We have a collision of good policy and the reality that sales to minors is not something easy to enforce.  Underaged drinking is a cultural phenomenon in the U.S.  Combined with the explosion in technology that makes forgery of IDs rampant, requiring bars to solve the problem of underaged drinking is unfair and unrealistic, in our humble opinion.