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Drinking Laws in Memphis: Tell Me More

Jul 1, 2015

According to our friends at Google, one of the most popular questions in Tennessee is about drinking laws in Memphis.

Memphis is near the top of our list for unusual liquor licensing laws.

In general, Tennessee liquor laws require that a restaurant, hotel or bar has to have a liquor license from the state and a beer permit from the city.  The state licensees wine and spirits and the city licenses beer.

In Memphis, the beer board is known as the Memphis Alcohol Commission.  Anyone that has obtained a beer permit in Memphis knows about sign posting, petitions and other quirks of licensing in Memphis.  As with many Tennessee cities and counties, the beer permitting process in Memphis is an exercise in red tape.

Don't get us wrong. Memphis staff members Yolanda Fullilove, Aubrey Howard and Roane Waring are some of our favorite Tennessee licensing officials.

Memphis features the only area in Tennessee where open container laws do not apply.  Within the Beale Street historic district, patrons can carry an open container on public streets and between bars.  No special license is needed - the bar or restaurant just needs to be located in the historic district.

The special Beale Street law also authorizes the sale of alcohol after the typical 3 am last call.  State law allows Memphis to set last call on Beale Street, but currently, Beale Street closes at 3 am.

Blues pioneer WC Handy inked an appropriate tune:

I've seen the lights of gay Broadway,
Old Market Street down by the Frisco Bay,
I've strolled the Prado, I've gambled on the Bourse;
The seven wonders of the world I've seen,
And many are the places I have been,
Take my advice, folks, and see Beale Street first!


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