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With Dallas’s Law taking effect January 1, 2023, folks in the alcohol industry are asking: what do I need to do to comply with the new Tennessee security laws?

The draconian penalty for failing to comply – a mandatory 30-day suspension of both your liquor license and beer permit – has injected fear and an element of panic into the industry.

If you have someone stationed at your front door to card for the drinking age, you most likely need to either:

  1. Engage front door personnel from a licensed security guard company, or
  2. Obtain a security company license for your restaurant, bar, hotel, brewery, distillery or other business and train and license your staff.

Who Needs to be Licensed?

The law broadly defines the types of duties that require being licensed as security. Here are two that require licensing:

  • Prevention, observation or detection of any unauthorized activity on private property
  • Enforcement of rules, regulations or local or state laws on private property

The law uses the misleading terms “security guard” and “security officer.” It does not matter what you call your staff.

If a staff member is primarily performing functions that are defined by state law as security, the staff member must be licensed as a security guard and your company must be licensed as a security guard company. 

The only alternative is to pay a licensed security guard company to provide security guards for your restaurant, bar, club, hotel, brewery, distillery or other business.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, the agency that administers security guard licenses, advises:

Q: Does everyone employed by a PSO that holds an ABC license have to comply with these requirements?

A: Only individuals who provide security or patrol services will need to comply with the new training requirements under Dallas’s Law. Waiters, bartenders, or other employees working for the PSO who are not providing security services will not need to complete the additional training requirements unless they also provide security services for the establishment.

The agency just released an FAQ here

What is Security?

The following is our best guess about a few common roles of staff in the hospitality industry:

1. Carding. If door personnel or other staff check IDs at the door and prevent underage patrons from entering, they are acting as security guards and need to be licensed. By preventing entry, the door personnel are performing security guard duties.

A bartender or server carding at the point of sale does not require licensing as a security guard.

2. Ushers. An usher that is showing a patron where to be seated is not acting as a security guard.

An usher that is removing an unruly patron from their seat is acting as a security guard.

An usher that tells a patron to be quiet or they will call for the police (or security) is not acting as a security guard.

3. Asking patrons to leave. Servers may be trained to summon a manager to attend to an intoxicated patron that has raised her voice in an oral disagreement with another patron. Although the manager may ask the patron to stop shouting, or may ask the patron to leave, the manager is trained to call the police, instead of physically ejecting the patron.  As long as this is not common at your business, the server and manager are not acting as a security guard.

4. Floor manager. If during busy times, a barback or floor manager walks around to observe patrons, you may want to have them licensed as a security guard.  If your staff gets into a conflict with a patron, there will probably be fewer questions about whether a server or manager who is temporarily involved in a conflict is acting as a security guard, because there is a dedicated staff member that is providing security services, and the server or manager does not primarily perform those duties.

5. Patrol at hotels. Staff that walk hallways and ask noisy patrons in rooms to be quiet could be acting as a security guard, depending on whether this is their “primary” duty. 

Keep in mind that your decision about whether to license staff as security guards may be judged in hindsight, after something bad happens at your business.

You can read the full text of the Dallas’s Law bill, as well as the entire law in Title 62, Chapter 35 of Tennessee Code Annotated, which includes definitions and details.

Cue Etta James’ 1967 classic song “Security”

Security, yeah yeah
I want some security
I want security, yeah
Without it I'm at a great loss
Yes I am, now
Security, yeah, yeah
And I want it any cost, yes I do now

Staff Training

The new law requires unarmed and armed security personnel to complete four (4) hours of training administered by a certified trainer and pass an examination. At minimum, the training must dedicate an hour to each of the following subjects: (1) orientation, (2) legal powers and limitations of a security guard/officer, (3) emergency procedures, and (4) general duties.

Within 15 days of employment, the security guard must complete de-escalation and safe restraint training, and a first aid and CPR course. A security guard is also required to complete two hours of refresher training for orientation, legal powers and limitations of a security guard/officer, emergency procedures, and general duties to renew their registration cards. Refresher training for de-escalation and safe restraint is a prerequisite for renewal as well but the law does not specify a time requirement.

The Penalty

Knowingly employing a security guard that is not trained and licensed is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by fine and a one-month suspension for your restaurant, bar, or club’s liquor license or beer permit. The suspension is per violation – per employee.

In criminal law, “knowingly” is a high standard of proof, particularly because the state bears the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Who knows how a beer board or the ABC will apply the new law? Do not be the test case and face a 30-day suspension.

Company Licensing

If your business employs staff that act in security roles, as defined by the law, your company must apply for and obtain a security company license, called a proprietary security organization. You must identify and provide information for a manager – the person that will supervise staff performing security.

Additionally, you must provide documentation of insurance coverage in the amounts of $300,000 for personal injury and $100,000 for property damage as required by T.C.A. § 62-35-114, electronic fingerprints of the manager, and a $100 registration fee. There is also a $200 fee paid every two years to maintain status as a propriety security organization.

If you have any doubt about your ability to comply with Dallas’ Law, we strongly encourage you to consider hiring a licensed security company.

The new law takes effect January 1, 2023.

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