And the Envelope Please…Oscars Not Alone in Accounting Problems: Tennessee Revenue Partially Shut Down for Liquor License Holders

By - February 28, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

Bone McAllester paralegal extraordinaire, Jennifer Maxey, tells us that the Tennessee Department of Revenue will not process new registrations for sales tax numbers, known as Certificates of Registration, until March 6, 2017.  Apparently, Revenue is the lucky recipient of a computer upgrade.

We understand that as long as a liquor license holder already has a sales tax number, Revenue can accept a new liquor-by-the-drink bond or bond rider.  Distilleries, wineries and breweries can also register new brands, as long as they already have a certificate of registration.

Survey Says: Tennesseans Want to Buy Wine in Groceries on Sundays

By - February 28, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law, Wigs Manager | Email Will Cheek

We figured that following passage of Wine in Grocery Store legislation, which we affectionately call WIGS, popular demand among consumers would lead to more changes in Tennessee law.

We blogged about pending legislation to legalize the sale of many wine coolers and niche products like sangria mixes in groceries and other food stores.

In our not so humble opinion, one of the biggest changes in Tennessee law is legalizing Sunday sales of wine in Kroger, Publix, Wal-Mart and other food stores.  We figure that the vast majority of shoppers would love to be able to buy wine on Sundays.

If Tennessee legalizes Sunday sales of wine in grocery stores, it seems only fair that liquor stores would also be allowed to open on Sunday.  Problem is, we think Tennessee liquor stores will oppose Sunday sales.

Based on our unscientific observations, Sunday is a big day for grocery shopping.  Grocers probably figure that many Sunday shoppers will put a couple of bottles of wine in their carts, if Sunday sales of wine are legal.  Sunday wine at a grocery is essentially an impulse purchase; if I can buy wine when I am Krogering on Sunday, great, if not, I am not going to trek back later in the week to buy wine from a grocery or a liquor store.

Tennessee liquor stores probably see Sunday sales as something they have to do, if food stores can sell wine.  But for a liquor store, being open on Sunday is not likely to draw many new sales.  Grocers already do huge business on Sunday.  Liquor store owners are closed.  Opening Sunday increases employee salaries and other liquor store expenses.

Plus, Tennessee restaurants could see a decline in wine sales from folks that cannot buy wine on Sunday, but want a glass with lunch or dinner.

Our buddy Willa reminds us of “Sunday in the South” by Shenandoah:

Mill worker houses lined up in a row, 
Another southern Sunday morning blow 
Beneath the steeple all the people have begun 
Shakin’ hands with the man who grips the gospel gun

Tennessee Considers More Wine in Grocery Stores with Legislation

By - February 23, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law, Wigs Manager | Email Will Cheek

Wine in Grocery Store legislation, which we affectionately call WIGS, allowed Tennessee grocery stores to sell wine beginning July 1, 2016, with a food store license issued by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

WIGS was a messy compromise.  We expected that WIGS would be revised to fix thorny issues.

A bill pending in the 2017 Tennessee Legislature will change the legal definition of wine and, in our humble opinion, allow food stores to legally sell many wine coolers and wine cocktails that are already on shelves.

Here is the problem.  Current law says that wine sold by a grocery store must be:

the product of the normal alcoholic fermentation of the juice of fresh, sound, ripe grapes, with the usual cellar treatment and necessary additions to correct defects due to climatic, saccharine and seasonal conditions, including champagne, sparkling and fortified wine of an alcoholic content not to exceed eighteen percent (18%) by volume. No other product shall be called “wine” unless designated by appropriate prefixes descriptive of the fruit or other product from which the same was predominantly produced, or an artificial or imitation wine.

Are you asleep yet?  Seriously, the definition is so hopelessly complicated that in our opinion, it is pretty much unenforceable by the TABC.

Pending legislation expands the definition of wine to eliminate the controversy.

The Tennessee ABC describes the legislative change at Sections 4, 5, and 6 – Definition of Wine  SB695-HB435 Legislation Summary

The entire bill is here.  HB0435

Paralegal extraordinaire Vicki reminds us of a fitting Kenny Chesney song:

Mama told them Jesus loves a sinner
His daddy said that music saved his soul
Between the rockers and the band
It’s a fitting promise land

Tennessee Legislature Looks to Legion of Liquor Laws

By - February 15, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The Tennessee state legislature is in session again and several changes are proposed for alcoholic beverages.  Our friends at Nashville law firm Gullet Sanford have done such a good job summarizing the biggest bill that we link to their post here.

Here is a copy of the bill, for anyone having problems with insomnia.

Our good friend Willa reminds us of the Eric Church classic Drink in My Hand:

To fill it up, or throw it down
I got a forty hour week worth of trouble to drown
No need to complicate it, I’m a simple man
All you got to do is put a drink in my hand

Stay tuned as we continue our coverage of the 2017 legislative session.

Tennessee State Legislature Proposes to Sidestep Metro Nashville Beer Board Approval for Restaurants, Hotels and Other Liquor License Holders

By - February 10, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

As we read it, a bill pending before the Tennessee State Legislature would essentially bypass the Metro Nashville beer application process for restaurants, hotels and other establishments with an on-premise liquor license issued by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.  Just file an application, pay the $250 fee and you can serve beer.

The legislation is here HB0351.

The law also seems to eliminate the 100 foot distance requirement from houses, churches, schools and other disqualifying uses.  Metro Nashville requirements for beer applicants would not apply, based on our take of the bill.

The classic 1975 “I’m Just a Bill” Schoolhouse Rock Saturday morning cartoon lesson is compelling:

I’m just a bill
Yes I’m only a bill,
And I got as far as Capitol Hill.
Well, now I’m stuck in committee
And I’ll sit here and wait
While a few key Congressmen discuss and debate
Whether they should let me be a law.
How I hope and pray that they will,
But today I am still just a bill.

Frankly, we hope the legislation gets stuck in committee.  We are not a fan of state laws that eliminate local laws.  Although we would love to see Metro Nashville modernize the beer laws and the beer application process, Metro Nashville can and should do so by passing a city ordinance.

We also see the legislation as yet another step by the state to eliminate local beer boards.  For decades, Tennessee law has given cities and counties considerable leeway to decide how and where beer can be sold.  Tennessee beer laws and beer boards are often cumbersome for businesses to navigate, but are an important local control over alcoholic beverages.

For example, the 100 foot distance requirement in Metro Nashville has been the subject of considerable debate.  Currently, a restaurant that is too close to a house, church or school has to publish a public notice and have their local council member introduce a city law to waive the requirement.  In our humble opinion, Nashville should decide the fate of the distance requirement.

Which Employees Can My Restaurant or Bar Legally Tip?

By - February 08, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

We hear lots of questions about tipping.  Can I include kitchen staff in tips?  Can food runners share tips?  What about my sushi chef?

Restaurants, bars, caterers and venues often surprise us with innovative ideas about tipping employees.  Unfortunately, tipping has not so clear laws about who can – and more importantly – who cannot share in tips.

Bone McAllester employment guru Anne Martin gives this sage advice.

There are three basic factors to consider when determining if you can share tips with an employee:

  1. Does the employee meaningfully participate in the customer experience?
  2. Is the employee part of management, which is undefined but disqualifies tipping?
  3. Is the position customarily and regularly tipped in the industry?

Whether an employee can be tipped really depends on specific job duties.  Servers and bartenders can clearly be tipped.  Prep chefs and bus boys generally cannot.

In our humble opinion, the third factor, “is this a position that is normally tipped,” works against innovative entrepreneurs.  For example, some of our restaurant clients feature food prep as a key part of the customer experience.  Like innumerable cable food shows, watching your food being prepared is entertainment.

The roles of traditional servers and chefs, for example, have blurred in recent years.

In our experience, the law is slow to accept new practices.  Sharing tips with chefs and other food prep staff could be risky.

It all boils down to the specific facts.

We encourage folks with good questions to reach out to Anne with specific asks  Anne really knows her stuff and is well worth paying for staying out of trouble.

A classic Michelle Shocked tune comes to mind, although wethinks Michelle is celebrating the jam that makes Music City famous, and not so much the sweet stuff you find at Loveless Cafe:

Yeah, we have a little revolution sweeping the land
Now once more everybody’s making homemade jam
So won’t you call your friends up on the telephone
You invite ’em on over, you make some jam of your own
You’ll be making jam
Strawberry jam
If you want the best jam
You gotta make your own

Carding Sting for Tennessee Retail Liquor Stores Delivering Alcoholic Beverages

By - February 02, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

We recently learned of a new downside for Tennessee retail liquor stores delivering bottles of alcohol to customers.  The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission cited at least one off-premises license holder for delivering hooch to a confidential informant.

The sale to minor citation involved a call to the package store for delivery of a bottle of alcoholic beverages to a nearby hotel.  The store took the order, processed a credit card and sent an employee to deliver the booze.  We understand that the employee met the “customer” in the hotel lobby and carded the “customer.”

Unfortunately for the retail store, the employee misread the age and completed the sale by delivering the bottle to the under aged informant.  The ABC issued a citation for sale to minor.  Based on what we know, the informant presented an authentic Tennessee driver’s license with a red box around the photo, indicating that the informant was under 21.

Time and time again, we remind license holders to train employees to focus on under 21 Tennessee IDs. Please, please please. The ABC is doing a great job with underage stings.  We recently blogged about 429 ABC sale to minor citations over the past year.

Willa brings up The Police’s 1983 massive hit:

Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you

E-mail us if you would like to learn more about our Red Box Carding techniques at  The ABC is definitely watching you.