Tennessee Tax Man Releases New Form for Restaurants, Bars and other On-Premise License Holders

By - June 25, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The Tennessee Department of Revenue announced a new price schedule as part of an effort to modernize its forms and tax reporting.  All liquor-by-the-drink license holders have to file a price schedule.

Unbeknownst to most, the price schedule is critical evidence in a tax audit.  Incorrect pour amounts or prices can lead to massive tax assessments.  We have seen assessments of over $100,000 for an innocent error in the amount of each pour, for example.

An explanation of the new price schedule is here. 

The new price schedule is here.

Cheap Trick penned a classic about taxes:

You work hard, you make money
There ain’t no one in this world who can stop you
You work hard, you went hungry
Now, the taxman is out to get you

We encourage folks to make sure that price schedules are accurate and updated regularly.

Robotic Bartender Takes Center Stage at NCSLA

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

Hailed as a “robotic bartending machine that can prepare your favorite drink in seconds,” Monsieur was a magnet for curious liquor industry insiders at the 2015 NCSLA annual conference.  Monsieur can mix up to 30 different drinks from alcohol and mixers stored inside the machine.  Monsieur offers security software to monitor the number of drinks consumed by each patron, for example.

Monsieur describes the machine as being easy to use:

“Order a drink in 3 easy steps.

1. Place a glass in the cup compartment.

2. Scroll through the on-screen cocktail menu.

3. Tap the beverage of your choice to place your order.”

1980’s Human League synth-pop star Philip Oakey and Italian composer and producer Giorgio Moroder get it:

We’ll always be together
However far it seems
(Love never ends)
We’ll always be together
Together in electric dreams

Looking beyond the wow factor of a machine that can mix cocktails, we question whether Monsieur will appeal to a broad market.  Inventory in the machine is paltry for high volume applications.  Although admirable for a trail-blazing cocktail machine, drink selections are too limited to replace a traditional bartender.  The initial zing of the machine may attract technophiles, but we wonder if Monsieur is destined to be an expensive pet rock or lava lamp – an unsustainable fad.

Monsieur may be a good fit for bars at limited service hotels that lack sufficient traffic to justify paying for a bartender.  If inventory quantities are increased, Monsieur may also be useful for preparing simple drinks at high volume chain restaurants – allowing servers to make popular cocktails at drink stands and freeing up bartender time for more creative offerings.

We have photos that tell the story.

LaVonn Berry with his baby
LaVonn Berry with his baby













Order Screen
Order Screen













The Inner Workings
The Inner Workings


















The product is expected to launch later this year.

Learn more about Monsieur.


New Cutting Edge Alcoholic Beverage Cocktail Garnish Featured at 2015 NCSLA Conference

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

Beverage innovator Steven Hollenkamp unveiled Cocktail Caviar at the 2015 annual meeting of the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators.  We found the idea quite unique, with the potential to become a successful staple among cocktail enthusiasts and creative chefs.


Cocktail Caviar
Cocktail Caviar


By featuring the new product at NCSLA, Hollenkamp may have deflected potentially false negative protests about his product – directly to an audience of regulators that might field complaints about what could be perfidiously called an alcoholic beverage bomb destined for abuse by binge drinkers.

Hollenkamp described Cocktail Caviar as a very small 26 proof orb, about 3/8 in diameter based on our visual observation.  It sank to the bottom of cocktails and glasses of wine and did not dissolve.

We found the product to be a small burst of flavor when added to a cocktail or sampled off a spoon.  With an alcoholic content equivalent to wine, the vodka-based product produced a slightly spirituous jolt that was quickly overwhelmed by natural tasting flavors.

Cocktail Clavier will not be popular among binge drinkers, in our humble opinion.  We see it being a niche product, popular among craft cocktail bartenders looking to add color and a flavorful surprise to their concoctions.  We also see creative pastry chefs using Cocktail Caviar to add color and small bursts of flavor to gourmet desserts.

For no particular reason, makes us think of the Def Leopard classic “Pour Some Sugar on Me”

Pour some sugar on me
Ooh in the name of love
Pour some sugar on me
C’mon fire me up

Hollenkamp hopes to release Cocktail Caviar later this year in select markets.  A little more about the product is here.

Tennessee Liquor Laws Not Friendly to International Tourists at 2015 CMA Fest

By - June 11, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Fan Fair is here.  Nashvillians are decidedly divided about the influx of nearly 100,00 country music fans for the annual CMA Fest, previously known for years as Fan Fair.

Many locals hate it; we love it.  Nearly everyone loathes the traffic.

Country music is popular overseas and CMA Fest is attracting a fair share of international fans.  Herein lies the collision of Tennessee liquor laws and Nashville’s largest tourist event.

Although state law does not require mandatory carding for the sale of beer, wine and spirits at restaurants, bars and venues in Tennessee, purveyors of alcohol are strictly liable for sales to minors and violators face harsh sanctions. The Tennessee ABC has intensified compliance checks for sales to minors and license holders have seen a sizable uptick in citations.

We think it is safe to say that the industry is justifiably concerned about the impact of ABC stings.

For a tourist mecca like Nashville to thrive, folks must be friendly to tourists.  Imagine being an Irish music fan at one of our favorite watering holes, Robert’s Western World on lower Broad.  You order a PBR in a can.  The bartender asks for an ID.  Your passport is at your hotel, where it should be, so you whip out your Irish driver’s license, which looks a lot like this:


The bar is mobbed, the bartender gets fired and criminally charged for selling to a minor, so the bartender says sorry, I cannot serve you.  Not exactly a positive Nashville experience for an Irelander.

We applaud Nashville Convention & Visitors chief Butch Spyridon for publicly asking folks to respect our international travellers with unfamiliar IDs.

We will never forget being stopped in college by a French army officer in Paris who asked for ID and all we had was our lowly Tennessee driver’s license.  Facing an unfriendly serviceman in uniform with a large rifle, it totally sucked to hear that the ID was not acceptable and that we needed to show a passport, which of course, was safely stored at our hotel.

Calls to mind Simon and Garfunkel’s hit America:

So we bought a pack of cigarettes,
And Mrs. Wagner’s pies,
And walked off
To look for America.

Mr. Spyridon’s e-mail is below:

Required identification for purchase of alcoholic beverages. Each year, I get complaints from international visitors regarding their government issued ID’s being declined as a valid means to purchase alcohol in some area restaurants and bars. Some have reported that local businesses state that passports are the only accepted form of ID for international visitors attempting to purchase alcohol. I requested clarity of the law and acceptable forms of identification from Keith Bell, executive director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. You will note from his email copied below that there is no state law requiring establishments to ID patrons. Additionally, if you elect to ID, any government issued ID (including from a foreign government) is acceptable for the purpose of identifying someone’s age to purchase alcohol. We do not want to encourage our visitors to carry their passports with them while they’re out enjoying our city for safety reasons. Our international visitation rate is increasing monthly, and particularly this week, we have visitors from over 23 countries visiting Nashville. I respectfully ask that you please consider your policies for acceptable forms of identification from our international visitors, and if need, update them to allow for more easy of purchase for our guests. If you have any questions or comments regarding this issue, please contact me at butch@visitmusiccity.com. Thank you in advance for all you do for our visitors. From: Keith Bell [mailto:Keith.Bell@tn.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2015 10:29 AM
To: Butch Spyridon
Cc: Ginna Winfree; Joshua Stepp; Melvin Brown; Juan Gomez; Terry S. Hill; Bond Tubbs; James Richardson
Subject: RE: Server permit A validly issued foreign government’s driver’s license or a validly issued foreign government’s passport is, for TABC purposes, considered a validly issued government identification for the person for whom it is issued and may be used for identification purposes in the purchase of alcoholic beverages within the State of Tennessee. There is no TN law or TABC rule requiring a restaurant to id at all. There is the criminal penalty if they serve someone under 21 years. However, many, if not all, of the finer restaurants have a company policy of carding everyone and not serving unless a valid government id is provided. Unfortunately, most restaurants tell customers they are required by law or the TABC and it’s not the case. Some other states have a mandatory carding in restaurants and if you go to a restaurant that has a national presences the company puts in place one uniform policy for all locations and requires carding.

E. Keith Bell
Attorney at Law
Executive Director
Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission
Davy Crockett Tower
500 James Robertson Pkwy, 3rd Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
(615) 741-7620

New Rules for Tennessee Retail Liquor Stores

By - June 10, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The changes from passage of Wine in Groceries legislation in Tennessee, which we affectionately call WIGS,  are epic.  We predict that the unintended consequences of WIGS will dwarf the changes folks planned for when WIGS was made law.

We learned of one such unexpected result today when we were forwarded a copy of the attached letter here.

Unlike convenience stores, gas stations and groceries, before WIGS, retail package stores in Tennessee were not required to comply with health and food safety codes imposed by local health departments and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture.  The sale of sealed containers of non-perishable wine and spirits does not present many health hazards.

With the introduction of potentially perishable products like cheese in liquor stores, we see Agriculture oversight as reasonable, if not predictable.

However, this means more governance for what is already a heavily regulated industry.  Tennessee liquor store owners are going to have to learn new sets of rules and train staff on required procedures.  Owners will have to file applications, pay fees and be inspected for the new requirements.

We expect local heath departments to also look at regulating liquor stores.  Based on our experience, pouring samples of wine and spirits, for example, falls within the purview of the health department.  So does serving even the most basic food items, like crackers to cleanse pallets between tastings.  Health will probably look at dishwashers for glassware, hand sinks for servers and other procedures that many retail liquor store owners have not even considered.

Store owners may be singing the classic Beatles tune:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

George Dickel Quietly Makes History with First Woman Master Distiller

By - June 08, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The art of distilling whiskey in Tennessee is a decidedly masculine job.  Master distiller is a coveted position – the pinnacle of the profession.

We applaud Diageo for naming Allisa Henley master distiller of one of Tennessee’s most-storied distilleries, George Dickel.  We are pretty sure that Allisa is the first woman to hold the title of master distiller in Tennessee.  Allisa is definitely the first woman to lead a distillery in the Volunteer State post-prohibition.

Allisa Henley - Portrait

Aretha Franklin’s anthem Respect comes to mind:

What you want
(Ooh) Baby, I got
(Ooh) What you need
(Ooh) Do you know I’ve got it
(Ooh) All I’m askin’
(Ooh) Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Hey baby (just a little bit) when you get home
(Just a little bit) mister (just a little bit)



Tennessee ABC Reminds Restaurants and Bars: “Were you raised in a barn? Close that door!”

By - June 04, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Our eccentric grandmother Bessie was fond of chiding us for leaving the door open as a child.  She would call out in her country Tennessee twang: “Were you raised in a barn? Close that door!”

A recent Tennessee ABC citation reminded us of one of Bessie’s favorite pet peeves.  Along with a more serious infraction, the ABC cited a restaurant for leaving the patio door open.

The restaurant was shocked.

Although the citation was resolved without a fine, the ABC was right about the law.  Patios are supposed to be enclosed to remind patrons not to leave with an alcoholic beverage.  As one ABC staffer noted, “the premises should be secured.”

Classic Neil Young song Don’t Spook The Horse is appropriate:

There’s a pretty little girl,
and she’s living down there,
Down on her daddy’s farm.

If you’re going to mess
around with that chick,
Be sure to close the barn door.

The take away.  Make sure staff knows to close the barn door.  Open patio gates are a no no.