Tennessee ABC Enforces Charitable Solicitation Laws for Nonprofit Liquor Licenses – New Rule Is a Huge Trap for Many Special Events

By - September 26, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law, Wigs Manager | Email Will Cheek

Nonprofits have seen a number of changes in recent months with the requirements for special occasion liquor licenses, which is the main way charitable events are licensed and the only way that donated alcohol can be served on premises.  Although a surprise to many nonprofits, the rules are manageable, if the event knows of the new rules early enough.

A new rule we discovered this month involves compliance with charitable solicitation laws.  Although not terribly burdensome, complying with charitable solicitations takes time.

Calls to mind “Sun City” by Artists United Against Apartheid, a multi-celebrity benefit song featuring Steven van Zandt, Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, Bono, Springsteen, Lou Reed, Herbie Hancock, Bob Dylan, Peter Garrett, Run DMC and Joey Ramone:

We’re rockers and rappers
United and strong
We’re here to talk about South Africa
We don’t like what’s going on

Many nonprofits learn of the new ABC requirements days before the event, which is not enough time to register.  Among the requirements is a bond, which normally takes several days to process.

With all the changes, we strongly encourage nonprofits to focus on Tennessee liquor licensing well in advance of the event.  We are seeing too many well-intentioned fundraisers scrambling to comply with the new liquor laws.


Tennessee Distillers Guild Website Goes Live

By - September 25, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law, Wigs Manager | Email Will Cheek

We are huge fans of the Tennessee distilleries that are working together as the Tennessee Distillers Guild.  Fierce competition among distilleries has been set aside for the better good of promoting distilling in Tennessee.  Industry leaders Jack and George have joined forces with new distillers to support the Tennessee Distillers Guild.

Yesterday, the Tennessee Distillers Guild website went live.  Check it out here.

The Tennessee Distillers Guild could be a magnet for Millennial and other highly desirable tourism in Tennessee.  A Tennessee whiskey trail could be a huge draw.

Although Kentucky’s bourbon trail is well established, Tennessee’s whiskey trail has a marquee brand known world-wide.  Jack Daniels is one of the most-recognizable U.S. brands – like Coca-Cola.  Unlike most of the bourbon purveyors in Kentucky, most of the distilleries in Tennessee’s guild are truly small artisan businesses with fabulous stories to tell.

George Jones immortalized the famous illegal Tennessee moonshine tradition:

Well I asked my old pappy why he called his brew
White lightning ‘stead of mountain dew
I took a little sip and right away I knew
As my eyes bugged out and my face turned blue
Lightning started flashin’ and thunder started crashin’
Shhhoooh… white lightnin’

This summer, we expect many of the purveyors of moonshine to have aged Tennessee whiskey for tasting and sale.  The Tennessee Whiskey Trail will offer craft spirits that are unique to Tennessee and made in limited quantities that are available in very limited quantities.

Stay tuned for progress from our home-grown distilleries.

Metro Nashville Beer Board Shows Mercy for Sales to Minors

By - September 24, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law, Wigs Manager | Email Will Cheek

For as long as we can remember, the Metro Nashville Beer Board has imposed an automatic formula for penalties for sales to minors.  First offense is a fine, second offense is a 14 day suspension, and third offense is a 30 day suspension.

It mattered not how hard you are trying to prevent sales to minors or how large is your venue.

The mathematical application of penalties calls to mind a classic School House Rock Song, Three is a Magic Number:

Every triangle has three corners,
Every triangle has three sides,
No more, no less.
You don’t have to guess.
When it’s three, you can see
It’s a magic number.

Last night, Wednesday September 23, 2015, the beer board offered a $2,500 fine to several restaurants charged with a second sale to minor.    Previously, a 14 day suspension was the only option.

As best we can understand the rationale, the Metro Nashville Beer Board will consider a fine for a second sale to minor if the restaurant or bar can demonstrate that it has policies and training in place to prevent sales to minors.

The Tennessee ABC used to follow a similar policy for sales to minors.  If you are doing a good job trying to prevent sales to minors, you got a fine instead of a suspension.

Any restaurant or bar owner knows that no matter how much you train and how good your carding procedures are, you are at the mercy of your servers.  A simple mistake by a server can lead to a disastrous suspension of your liquor license.

Although we agree that sales to minors is a huge issue for the industry, we applaud the Metro Nashville beer board for recognizing the efforts of law-abiding liquor license holders.

Rampant Rumors About New Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission Minor Sting

By - September 04, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law, Wigs Manager | Email Will Cheek

We have heard from restaurant and bar owners in Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville about what folks say is an ABC sting for sales to minors.  Several folks have described a sting where 3 or 4 ABC agents sit at a table and order food.  Folks over the age of 21 order alcoholic beverages, but an agent under the age of 21 does not try to order alcohol.

After the meal, the server presents the check and the under age cadet pays the tab.

The ABC charges the restaurant with a sale to minor because the meal, including alcoholic beverage, is paid for by the minor.

We have been in close communication with leadership at the ABC over the past several months.  In our humble opinion, the ABC would not engage in a sting like described above.  We have checked with a trusted source at the ABC, and the sting is not employed by ABC agents.

Clash’s hit Police on My Back seems appropriate:

Yes, I’m running down the railway track
Could you help me? Police on my back
They will catch me if I dare drop back
Won’t you give me all the speed I lack

We think license holders can beat a charge from a sting like the rumor mill describes.  SAC Melvin Brown and other law enforcement at the ABC certainly understand that they will loose these cases.  We chalk this alleged “sting” up to the rumor mill.

After our post, Jeff from Black Horse Pub in Clarksville commented about the unpredictable practices of local police.  Jeff notes:

I agree the abc may not execute that sting. But local municipalities playing the game are not under the same guidelines as the tabc. The Montgomery county sheriffs office just had a bunch of drug possession cases tossed because the deputies set up on I-24 and were stopping cars that just looked like they were packed for bonnaroo.  They actually stated that they were using “going to bonnaroo” as probable cause to stop the cars. Their dashboard cams showed them standing on the side of the interstate watching for cars with “hippies” in them and then jumping in their cars and chasing down kids cars.  You can never underestimate them. 

Yet Another New Barrier in Beer Laws for Immigrants Starting C-Stores and Markets in Tennessee

By - September 03, 2015 | Alcoholic Beverage Law, Wigs Manager | Email Will Cheek

Tennessee professes to be a business-friendly bastion.  But like many states, business-friendly advocates in Tennessee also support laws that aim to curtail the rights of immigrants.

A law passed in 2015 raises the bar for immigrants seeking to obtain beer permits, which are necessary to open markets in Tennessee.  The new law requires:

After July 1, 2015, a city or county shall not issue a permit under this chapter unless the applicant has been a citizen or lawful resident of the United States for not less than one (1) year immediately preceding the date upon which the application is made to the city or county.

Previously, a handful of beer boards required proof of rights to work in the U.S, like a green card, before issuing a beer permit.  For example, Nashville has required documentation for a couple of years.

The new state law requires a one year waiting period – meaning that someone that legally immigrates to the U.S. cannot qualify for a beer permit for one year after being granted permission to work in the U.S.  Based on our informal experience, the vast majority of non-chain markets are independently owned by immigrants.

There may be U.S. constitutional issues with the new state residency law and waiting period, but that will require expensive litigation and several years to resolve.  We see the new law unfairly impacting immigrants for years to come,and although it may ultimately be declared unconstitutional, relief is not going to be snappy.

Rock icon Led Zeppelin sang about immigration in a very different time and about a very different group of immigrants:

We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying: