Reliable sources say the Tennessee General Assembly is poised to introduce legislation to take away jurisdiction over beer at restaurants and limited service restaurants from the Metro Nashville Beer Board. HB0594 is calendared for hearing in the House Department & Agencies Subcommittee on March 8, 2023.
If the HB0594 amendment is introduced, the law would allow a restaurant or limited service restaurant to serve beer with its ABC license. This effectively strips jurisdiction over restaurant and bar licensing and enforcement from the Metro Nashville Beer Board.
Nashville has been under attack by some legislators on a number of fronts. The amendment could be part of the anti-Nashville sentiment.
Or perhaps it could be business owners with an ax to grind against the Metro Beer Board, using the anti-Nashville sentiment to run Metro Beer Inspectors out of their businesses.
The Metro Nashville Beer Board is relatively unique in the state, having its own law enforcement staff that conducts hundreds of sales to minor stings each year. Based on our unscientific research, the Metro Beer Board is more active in sales to minor stings than the Tennessee ABC in Nashville.
This is not criticism of the ABC. We merely ask: why is the state curtailing the jurisdiction of an effective law enforcement agency? Carding is not hard and preventing sales to minors is critical to the hospitality industry.
We recognize that there may be some synergies with combining beer permitting and state liquor licensing. In our humble opinion, slashing the jurisdiction of an effective law enforcement agency like the Metro Nashville Beer Board is not where the state should start.
Is the Metro Nashville Beer Board headed for extinction? Cue Bob Dylan:
Mama take this badge off of me
I can't use it anymore
It's getting dark, too dark to see
I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door
Knock-knock-knockin' on heaven's door
We have been hearing rumors about the death of beer boards for decades.
The first real step toward limiting jurisdiction of beer boards happened when the legislature enacted wine in grocery stores, affectionately known as WIGS. As part of the WIGS compromise, retail liquor stores were allowed to sell beer - without obtaining a beer permit.
When WIGS passed, the power of beer boards was effectively curtailed, without any discussion about what agency was in the best position to regulate beer.
Anyone versed in Tennessee licensing knows that nearly every city and county in the State of Tennessee has a different beer board, with at least one staff member and a volunteer board of citizens of the town or county appointed to enforce the beer laws. The beer laws allow local municipalities and counties to enact local laws governing the sale and service of beer, and to conduct local law enforcement actions, most particularly, sales to minors stings.