By Jill Penley
While the liquor store referendum passed in Johnson County with broad support on Nov. 6, eight months have now passed, and nary a package store has materialized proving the process is anything but simple. Since Tennessee alcohol laws are distinct in that they vary considerably by county, new laws and ordinances had to be written, reviewed, and approved before any applications could be accepted.
“We have received two package store applications,” said George Wright, city attorney, “including one from an LLC.” Wright also indicated one other potential applicant, as inquiry has been made with City Hall administrators as to the application process.
“The city council has now established a regulatory structure for the new ordinance,” explained Attorney Wright, “ensuring it is compliant with a state law that stipulates reasonable access to package stores.” Items contained within the ordinance include liquor store licensing, fees, hours of operation, store locations, store size, signage, record-keeping, enforcement, and penalties.
Wright also explains local grocery stores can begin selling beer after making an application and obtaining a license to do so. “Grocery stores” is the term used in this article to mean “food retail stores” defined by the state of Tennessee as stores with at least 20 percent of its sales from food and are at least 1,200 square feet. It excludes most convenience stores and gas stations.
One of the local Mexican restaurants has reportedly applied to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission for a “liquor by the drink” license; a type of license that is handled by the state.
Tom and Becky Stanley report they have done everything they know to do to open “Black Bear Wine & Spirits,” their proposed package store in Mountain City.
According to Becky, the couple ran the “Notice of Intent” in the newspaper
for the required time, completed the Application for Order of Compliance, and submitted it at city hall on June 7.
“We have purchased the property, and invested in-store fixtures like coolers, shelving, etc. in hopes of preparing the store to open as soon as possible,”
Becky said. “We have optimistically begun building renovations, but have had to postpone them while we wait for an Order of
Compliance from the City, which is required before applying to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.”
Since the Town of Mountain City adopted the ordinance establishing specific regulations regarding the retail sale of liquor, two applications have been
submitted, and the city attorney and chief of police are processing the applications, and background
checks are being conducted. If all specifications are met and the background check
is clear, an ‘Order of Compliance’ is subsequently issued. At this point, an application can be made at the state
level. After a completed application for a retail store is received, the application must be placed on the
agenda and approved by the TABC commission at a regular monthly commission meeting.