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Tennessee’s statute that authorizes carry out alcohol is set to sunset July 1 of this year. We keep hearing the question: will cocktails to go be extended? 

Legislation backed by the state hospitality association was set to be heard this week in committee, but did not advance. HB 0624 - SB 0438 sought to make alcohol to go permanent.   

The bill could be dead for the year. The House version was “taken off notice” in the state government subcommittee. Unless sponsor Darren Jernigan asks for the bill to be calendared for hearing, cocktails to go seems dead in Tennessee. 

The Tennessee legislature meets once every year, stating in January. By the end of April, they generally wrap things up and leave for the year. Meaning, that unless the legislation passes before the legislature adjourns, alcohol to go is history in Tennessee.  

Nashville establishments that have a beer carryout permit will still be able to offer beer sales to go, but not wine or spirits, unless the legislation passes. 

We hear Frank Sinatra crooning “One For My Baby:”

Well that’s how it goes and Joe 

I know you’re getting anxious to close 

So, thanks for the cheer, I hope you didn’t mind my bendin’ your ear 

But this torch that I found must be drowned or it soon might explode 

So, make it one for my baby and one more for the road 

Based on our licensing experience, there are plenty of Tennessee restaurants that offer cocktails to go. And although cocktails to go is not nearly as popular as it was during the height of the pandemic, why shouldn’t restaurants be able to sell a margarita or bottle of wine with a to go meal? 

Here’s one good reason: to-go sales to minors compliance has been poor.   

Based on ABC records of stings at restaurants, hotels and other liquor-by-the-drink establishments, the success rate at the bar and in the dining room is around 75%.  Here is the success rate for alcohol to go: 

  • 2020 - 58% 
  • 2021 - 28% 
  • 2022 - 58% 

The industry has not done a good job of preventing underage sales for to-go orders. We suspect that the track history will be used against the industry when the legislature considers extending alcohol-to-go.   

Stay tuned for more news about your favorite cocktail – to go. 

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