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.