Business and Economy NewsTracker

City’s Alcohol Sales Not Allowed: AG

The city of Clarksville is not allowed by law to sell liquor by the drink, wine or beer, the attorney general has ruled in an opinion citing Tennessee’s history as a ‘bone dry’ state.

The ruling thwarts efforts by the city to raise money by selling beer at parks, which the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle outlines here.

According to the Leaf-Chronicle, the city has made sure that any beer served at its golf courses is served up by private contractors, not the city itself. The paper reports on how the opinion could affect beer sales by the cities of Murfreesboro and Memphis.

Metro Nashville stands out for its stance, detailed by the Tennessean, that it can continue to sell beer.

The AG’s Jan. 9 ruling explains that a city is not a person, firm or any of the other entities that can be issued permits to sell alcohol under state law. A city can’t get around the prohibition by setting up a nonprofit or city employee as the license holder since either would just be a stand-in for the city itself, the opinion says.

The City cannot obtain a license to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption. Only a ‘person, firm, corporation, partnership, or association’ can obtain a license to ‘allow the dispensing of alcoholic beverages except sacramental wines and beer.’ …

Similarly, a beer permit is required for the sale of beer for on-premises consumption, and permits may be obtained only by a ‘person, firm, corporation, joint-stock company, syndicate, or association.’

Governments including the state of North Carolina do sometimes get into the business of direct alcohol sales through state-run stores. Fewer than half the states sell direct, according to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association.

Featured Transparency and Elections

Tennesseans Liberalizing on Liquor

Local citizens across the Volunteer State overwhelmingly voted to flip their towns from dry to wet this past election, with more than two dozen communities saying ‘yes’ to liquor stores or the sale of liquor in restaurants.

Of 32 local referendums held last week to allow either package stores or liquor by the drink — or both — 25 passed.

View Tennessee Liquor Public Votes 2012 in a larger map

In some counties, the ‘yes’ votes were overwhelming. In Robertson County, for example, four cities approved alcohol sales: Coopertown, Cross Plains, Greenbrier and Orlinda. And in Hawkins County, Church Hill, Mt. Carmel and Rogersville approved liquor by the drink.

From Pigeon Forge to McKenzie, liquor sales won over the voters.

See the complete list by clicking here.

The support sets the table for a push in the 2013 legislative session to allow grocery stores to sell wine, according to the former assistant director and general counsel of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission who now serves as a lobbyist for state grocery stores.

“We’re going to make a much stronger effort this year to pass it in the House and the Senate,” said Dan Haskell. “Both the speaker of the House and the lieutenant governor are openly in favor of this. This is going to be a different kind of year.”

“I think we’re going to win,” Haskell said. “The vast majority of Tennesseans want us to win.”Thirty-three states allow grocery stores to sell wine, but big-gun lobbying by Tennessee’s liquor wholesalers and retailers have for years blocked legislation to legalize wine sales in grocery stores.

As far as Tennessee’s cities that have approved liquor-by-the-drink measures, Haskell says there will be little change in those cities — only that folks going to local restaurants will now be able to raise a glass.

Those getting liquor licenses “are mostly restaurants that are there already and decided to upgrade their activity because it means more money for the merchant, more taxes are paid to the city and the citizens don’t have to drive as far when they go out for dinner,” he said.

Trent Seibert can be reached at, on Twitter at @trentseibert or at 615-669-9501.

Environment and Natural Resources NewsTracker

Zone Coverage

Zoning boards and land-use officials across the state regularly set their regulatory sights on all manner of commercial activity and residential development efforts. The decisions they make aren’t always regarded with the highest esteem.

  • The Oak Ridge City Council delayed a decision on whether to rezone a piece of land on the Oak Ridge Turnpike to allow for commercial development, even though businesses like Sonic and Dollar General already dot the area.
  • There’s government infighting over a proposal in Cheatham County, where the Board of Zoning Appeals made an exception to the rule in allowing a mobile home on a 2.5-acre Joelton lot. The usual minimum is 5 acres for a lot without a public water supply, and Cheatham County Mayor David McCullough is appealing the decision.