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August 26, 2019

Here are this year’s highlights from the 2019 legislative session when it comes to liquor laws.

College Sports SalesP.C. 99 amended the alcohol code’s definition of “sports authority facility” to include “any facility on the campus of a public institution of higher education that is designed and used for school-sanctioned sporting events.” In effect, the law allows the lawful selling of wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages at more collegiate stadiums and arenas. This is a major jump from last year’s related legislation, which defined “sports authority facility” narrowly and only allowed alcohol at MTSU and TSU. P.C. 99, on the other hand, applies to all counties.

This legislation comes at an opportune time, as the SEC lifted its ban on stadium-wide alcohol sales and allowed individual schools to decide if hooch could be sold at college games. The University of Tennessee’s concessionaire was recently approved for beer and wine sales at Thompson-Boling Arena, Neyland Stadium and Regal Soccer Stadium. The Alice Cooper show at Thompson-Boling will be the historic first show at UT with booze.

We understand that Vanderbilt University is currently debating whether to fall in line with other SEC schools that allow alcohol sales.

Alcohol Sales at the Zoo. P.C. 300 may bring out your inner party animal. As of this May, it became legal for the Nashville and Knoxville Zoos to sell alcohol during regular hours. You can now take your kids to zoo … and enjoy it even more. P.C. 300, which can be found here, amends a law that explicitly prohibited the sale of wine, beer, or alcoholic beverages during regular operating hours outside of special fundraising events.


Premier Type Tourist Resorts. The following premier-type tourist resorts received approval, which will allow on-premises alcohol consumption:

  • Hermitage Golf Course in Davidson County
  • Legacy Farms in Lebanon
  • Weir Park in Clay County
  • Center for the Arts in Murfreesboro
  • El Fogon Restaurant in Hixson
  • Lebanon Theater in Lebanon
  • The Blake at Kingsport in Kingsport
  • Legacy Farms in Lebanon
  • Flat Hollow Marina in Campbell County
  • The 121 Hotel in Nashville
  • Central Park in Livingston
  • Sip-n-Scoop in College Grove 

Server Permits. P.C. 435 reduced the training time to 3.5 hours. Previously, the ABC required five hours of training.


Wine and Wineries. This year’s legislature enacted a slew of laws about wine. 2019 saw the creation of the Tennessee Wine and Grape Board, to support the growth of Tennessee’s wine industry. P.C. 444 gives the Governor the job of dubbing five individuals (of the seven that compose the board) to certain positions, including one grape producer and two members who are involved in the production, marketing, sales, journalism, or education of the industry. Among the Board’s goals will be to increase winery numbers and improve wine quality.


Conjures up the overplayed tune Brandy by one-hit wonder Looking Glass:

Brandy, you're a fine girl (you're a fine girl)

What a good wife you would be (such a fine girl)

Yeah, your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea

We’re going to need a bottle of fine Tennessee wine to get that song out of our heads and forget those sexist lyrics.

P.C. 74 further erodes the three-tier system for wine. The bill eliminates wholesalers for distribution to satellite facilities for wineries that pay taxes on 50,000 gallons or less of wine during a calendar year. For larger wineries, the law is now permissive, allowing wineries that produce more than 50,000 gallons to self-distribute to satellite facilities, at the option of the wholesaler.


What’s in a name? P.C. 263 renamed the “direct shipper’s license” in Tennessee’s Code’s alcohol licensing provisions to “winery direct shipper’s license.” Was anyone confused about not being able to ship spirits?

WIGS. P.C. 136 removed a pesky requirement for food store retailers. Before this bill’s time, grocery stores were required to obtain a new certificate of compliance from the local government every two years. Now, the certificate will remain legit unless a change of ownership or location occurs. The catch? It doesn’t apply to liquor stores.

The bill does make life a bit harder for retail food stores selling wine: now, each retail food store has to include the first and last name of all clerks for purposes of Tennessee’s responsible vendor training program. Before amending this provision, retail food stores were only required to pay a fee corresponding to however many certified clerks the store had. Now, stores will have a few more hoops to jump through.

Speaking of clerks, P.C. 136 reduced training time for WIGS and responsible beer vendor clerks from 2 to 1 hour. Now, WIGS clerks responsible beer vendor applicants can become certified with only one hour of training.


Distilleries & Manufacturers. A parity bill passed this session, extending the hours a distillery can sell its products on Sundays and abolishing a relic from pre-ABC days. Now, distilleries are able to sell on Sundays during the same hours as retailers (10 AM until 11 PM).

The bill also did away with a sunset provision that would have precluded distilleries from having interests in restaurants through a trust. Distilleries can continue to have a direct or indirect interest in a restaurant that has a license for on-premises consumption -- so long as the interest is held in an irrevocable distillery trust.

Distilleries can now allow open carry of beer, wine and spirits from an adjacent LBD and have common premises under Section 4 of P.C. 435. 


No more Revenue Manufacturing License.  This year’s legislature did away with another pre-ABC artifact via P.C. 301. The law abolished the $1,000 privilege tax that distilleries, wineries and high gravity brewers were obligated to pay to the county.


Beale Street.  P.C. 435 allows bars and restaurants in the Beale Street Historic District to serve customers seated at tables along the outside wall of the establishment, provided Memphis allows the practice.  Note that this section does not specifically impact the service of beer, just wine, high gravity beer and spirits.


Scooters and Booze. Scooters are now considered motor-driven vehicles for the purposes of DUI laws. Previously, Tennessee’s Motor and Other Vehicles laws did not specifically include scooters. Seeing as scooters have become Nashville’s newest Millennial plague – the Hot Tub Party Bus may be a close second – and caused numerous tragic accidents, it is no surprise that the legislature has now targeted scooters directly.

The Tennessee Code’s Rules of the Road chapter now includes a new definition – “electric scooter” – and with it comes a host of liabilities for those who decide to take one of those death traps for a spin. The definition includes a requirement of having a maximum speed of no more than twenty miles per hour.

In enacting P.C. 388, this year’s legislature tacked on scooters to a law concerning electric bicycles. The new section of the electric bicycle law indicates that, although scooters are not subject to the Tennessee Financial Responsibility Law, the Uniform Classified and Commercial Driver License Act, and Title 55’s chapters regarding title and registration, they are subject to the laws that apply to bicycles and electric bicycles.

That means DUI laws now apply to scooters.

Another section added by this year’s legislature is worded like a threat. The newly enacted section states that, although scooters are excluded from certain chapters of the Code, nothing precludes counties, municipalities, or metropolitan forms of government from regulating, controlling, or banning the use and operation of scooters within its boundaries. The quasi-threat is subject only to a limitation that ordinances must be reasonably related to promoting and protecting the health and safety of riders, operators, pedestrians, and other motorists. We see this as part of an effort to combat safety risks, as Nashville Fire has reported over 70 scooter-related injuries in the past few months.

A failed wine bill bears mentioning. If enacted, the bill would have expanded the ability of art galleries to serve wine to gallery patrons by lowering from 90 percent to 80 percent the amount of revenue a gallery has to receive from artwork sales in order to serve wine free of charge. Certain versions of the amendment sought to allow galleries to also serve high alcohol content beer as well. Lawmakers certainly had the Nashville and Front Street Art Crawls in mind.


RIP. A host of bills never saw the light of day.

- A law designed to expand the amount of wine an individual could have shipped to their residence dies in committee. Were those Goose or Rooster fingerprints on that bill …

- A bill allowing publicly-elected officials to own a retail liquor store or wholesaler died this session. You know what they say. Don’t mix business with pleasure …

- Alcohol delivery apps like Drizly might have lost its Nashville presence if a bill unintentionally directed at the popular application had not died. The bill would have required alcohol delivery apps to apply for and obtain a delivery service license. We aren’t sure if this was a caption bill, but we do know that it failed.

- A bill to allow stronger wines in grocery stores was unsuccessful. It would also have permitted grocery stores to sell a wider variety of wine coolers.

- There must be a rumor going around that vaping and inhaling alcohol is quite popular in the Volunteer State. A bill extending the time a license is suspended (from 60 days to 90 days) for engaging in such activity came before the Tennessee legislature this year … again. Our question is this: does this doodad even exist in Tennessee? Of course, if it did, it would certainly have dangerous implications – especially for those who are calorie-conscious and could use the device to get drunk without the guilt. But we’ve found no evidence of these devices being used in Tennessee or any other state for that matter.

- An effort to deliver more money to local coffers by raising beer application fees failed this session. The now-deceased bill would have brought the cost of a beer permit more in line with liquor licenses, whose fees are generally much higher.

- High Gravity gets higher … Among this year’s failures was a bill that redefined “beer.” If this had passed, a beer with an alcohol content of 18% by volume or less would be regulated by counties, while beer with alcoholic content greater than 18% would be regulated by ABC.

- Although wineries are permitted to self-distribute in limited circumstances, an attempt to expand self-distribution to Tennessee breweries died in session this year.

- A bill increasing DUI penalties proved unsuccessful. The bill, which sought to increase the penalty for second and third DUI convictions to a Class E felony, would have prevented a large group of Tennesseans from holding liquor licenses or from obtaining server permits. Safe to say this is a death some in the industry aren’t grieving over.

Go Elizabeth!  A huge shout out to Summer Associate and Vanderbilt law student extraordinaire Elizabeth Boston for her assistance researching and writing this post.

Click here to learn more about Waller’s alcoholic beverage team.

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