Last Call

When is Happy Hour Not so Happy In Tennessee?

By - September 23, 2017 | Alcoholic Beverage Law | Email Will Cheek

The rules on Happy Hour in Tennessee can drive you to drink.  Make that a double.

Nothing good seems to happens after 10 pm, or at least so thinks the Tennessee state legislature. After 10 pm, bars cannot:

  • sell or serve more than one drink at a time
  • pour more alcohol for the same price

The exceptions to the rules make it fun – for sick folks that like obtuse facts, like lawyers.

First of all, beer is happy, day or night. Happy hour rules do not apply to beer.

Half price cocktails and other drink discounts are timeless. Tennessee ditched the old rule that prohibited discounting drinks after 10 pm.

2-4-1 is tricky. Although you can discount drinks until close, you cannot serve 2 drinks to a customer after 10 pm.

And speaking of doubles, bring it on, as long as the price for a second shot is the same, day or night. Offering discounted doubles after 10 pm can violate the rule against pouring more alcohol for the same price after 10 pm.

Be careful with drink chips and other free drink promotions. Tennessee state law prohibits giving away wine or spirits. You can do 2-4-1 with a drink chip, as long as the chip is redeemed by 10 pm. Redeem the chip after 10 pm and you violate happy hour laws.  If the customer tries to redeem the chip for a drink on the next day, you are giving away liquor and can be cited.

Beware of bottomless mimosas, bloody mary’s and other cocktails. Serving too many drinks for a fixed price can violate the rule against giving away liquor. You can also get folks drunk. State law prohibits serving alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person.

I know, isn’t that the whole purpose for going to a bar anyway: to get drunk?

We have been quietly humming the Ren & Stimpy oh-so-sarcastic theme song whilst posting this happy hour nonsense:

Happy Happy Joy Joy
Happy Happy Joy Joy Joy
I don’t think you’re happy enough. That’s right! I’ll teach you to be
Happy. I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs
Happy Happy Joy Joy…

William T. Cheek III

William T. Cheek III

As the only Tennessee attorney named Best Lawyers in America for Food and Beverage Law, Will Cheek leads firm’s Alcoholic Beverage Team and provides licensing and regulatory compliance advice to restaurants, hotels, bars, clubs, craft distilleries and breweries. Will’s clients range from small chef-owned restaurants to large publicly traded corporations. He is nationally known as the go-to source for Tennessee liquor law and authors the blog Last Call, covering Tennessee alcohol, restaurant and hospitality news.
William T. Cheek III
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