LOCAL NEWS — Change is hard and alcohol laws are complicated. That’s the take away from Monday afternoon’s Metro Beer Board meeting. In it, two more local businesses, Barrel House BBQ and Lynchburg Winery, were granted on and off site beer sales permits. A third permit for TJ Harris was postponed.
Both passes by a 2-0 vote with both Chariman Buford Jennings and member Amy Cashion voting yes. The third member of the board, Tommy Brown stepped down from the board at the last Metro Council meeting and they have not yet approved a replacement. Two members do; however, make up a quorum.
Those approvals did not come without push back. Several members of the community showed up to voice their opposition.
“Why do we need beer sold in the county?” asked one. “We didn’t have it before.”
That’s when Chairman Jennings explained that the Metro Beer Board’s hands were tied.
“We can’t vote this down without opening ourselves up to a huge lawsuit,” Jennings said. “We’re simply here to monitor and enact what the Metro Counil’s already put in place.”
The Metro Beer Board is bound by the desires of the Metro Council and the Metro Council is bound by the laws of the State of Tennessee. They’ve been advised by the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS), that a beer board may not deny a permit, “based on the generalized belief that the sale of beer is determental to the public health, safety, and morals.”
Another audience member asked why no public referendum was required to offer on and off site beer permits to businesses … since this was something new in the county.
Mayor Bonnie Lewis explained that a referendum is only necessary to officially change Metro Moore County from a dry county to a wet county, which isn’t the case with the beer approvals.
It’s a little know fact that since state Prohibition all governments jurisdictions (counties and municipalities) in Tennessee are dry by default. In order to become wet, they must pass a public referendum that specifically allows for liquor-by-the-drink and retail package stores. Selling beer does not impact the dry/wet designation.
When asked about the safety concerns, Mayor Lewis went on to explain that all those serving beer, wine, or alcohol in Metro Moore County are required to take the state’s Serve Safe and acquire a state Alcohol Beverage Commission (ABC) Server Permit.
John Manis, from Lynchburg Winery and American Craft Distillers, also stressed that since the beginning his business have scanned ID electronically, which not only cuts down on underage drinkers but also those trying to present fake IDS.
When ask specifically about any alcohol-related arrests that may have resulted from the liquor and wine served at the Lynchburg Music Fest, Sheriff Hatfield stated that there were a total of one alcohol-related arrest, and one alcohol-related citation over the weekend and both happened outside the festival footprint.
Sheriff Hatfield also stressed that his office would continue to work with TABC to execute controlled buys and compliance checks in the county.
“Obviously, we plan to address any complaints individually,” he said.
Chairman Jennings also stressed that the first violation of a beer permit would be met with either a $1,500 fine or a two week suspension. The second violation would result in the Beer Board revoking the license.
Another local business, BBQ Caboose, will have their beer permit considered at the next meeting. •