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Who do I have to card when selling alcohol in Tennessee?

Dec 11, 2019

Unless you are living under a rock, you know you need a new driver’s license – a REAL ID – in order to clear TSA Security at airports and to enter secured federal facilities, such as military bases. The fear of flying, or more accurately, the fear of not being able to fly, has inspired action among REAL ID applicants and generated long lines at Tennessee driver’s license centers. The deadline for having a REAL ID is October 1, 2020.

With all the hoopla surrounding REAL ID, we have to ask:  Do I need a REAL ID in order to purchase alcohol in Tennessee?

So far, the answer is no. We believe the Tennessee ABC will continue to allow restaurants, bars, grocery stores and other license holders to accept valid Tennessee Driver’s licenses – regardless of whether they are REAL ID.

Of course, individual beer boards and local police may see things differently; however, nothing in the carding laws requires a REAL ID.

All this talk over REAL ID raises a perennial question: Who has to card everyone? Drum roll, please. 

  • Beer – off-premises (C stores, groceries, pharmacies) - Yes, card everyone
  • Beer – on-premises (beer bars) - No, carding is discretionary
  • Wine and spirits off-premises (liquor stores) – Yes, card everyone beginning July 1, 2014
  • Wine stores (groceries) – Yes, card everyone beginning July 1, 2016
  • Wine and spirits on-premises (restaurants, bars) – No, carding is discretionary

Burned out on Christmas carols, we are cranking Rihanna's "Cheers (Drink to That)"


There's a party at the bar

Everybody put ya glasses up and I drink to that

I drink to that

We have often opined that universal carding is an utter waste of time – why spend any time looking at the ID of a silver-haired elderly gentleman when you should be focusing on ID’s of college-age kids?

However, given the significant number of servers and clerks that fail beer board and ABC stings by not even asking for an ID, we believe universal carding works. Universal carding takes the discretion out of the hands of the server and requires staff to card everyone.

Restaurants, bars and other on-premise establishments do not have to card – but we strongly encourage folks to require universal carding.

The Metro Nashville Beer Board has publicly indicated that it has increased stings, as we blogged about here. Likewise, the Tennessee ABC is expected to continue to focus on age ID stings. Your license is at risk.

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