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Regulations delay package store licensing

By Jill Penley

Johnson County voters made their voices heard in November, but it seems voting “yes” to on-premise consumption, and package stores may have been the easy part as some remain in limbo as to what to do next. Tennessee has always had a complicated relationship with alcohol, and according to at least one resident interested in opening a package store in the city limits, the process to get the business up and going can be daunting.
“We are still interested in pursuing the package store,” said Tom Stanley, who reports he is awaiting feedback from the Planning Commission regarding specific requirements. “I have contacted the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission and found that obtaining a Retail Package Store License is a very lengthy process.” Reportedly, the Town of Mountain City must first establish specific regulations regarding the retail sale of liquor. Then, if those are specifications are met, an Order of Compliance is subsequently issued. At that 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. Adherence to specific regulations is also required. For example, a retail store must be located on the ground floor with one main entrance opening on a public street with no other door or entrance for use by the public unless the store is located on the corner of two public streets. Under those circumstances, a retail store could have a door opening on each of the public streets.
Additionally, retail stores are required to close on Christmas, Thanksgiving Day, and Easter. Hours of operation for retail package stores are also set.
Retail package store managers must hold a manager’s permit and employees of a retail store must be at least eighteen years old and must be certified clerks.
In addition to employee requirements, there are laws regarding ownership of retail package stores. For instance, an owner cannot hold any type of public office, or have any interest, either direct or indirect, in any other retail liquor store, wholesale license, or liquor by the drink license. There are stipulations for prospective retail package store owner with felonies. Under current legal scrutiny, is Tennessee’s residency requirement, which says one must reside in the state for a minimum of two years to obtain a retail liquor license and for at least ten years to get a license renewed.
Currently being heard by the U. S. Supreme Court, Byrd v. Tennessee, was prompted by Total Wine & More, a wine and spirits chain, who attempted to open a retail location in Tennessee. According to state legislation, the chain would not be permitted to do so unless its owners were residents of the state. This case demonstrates the murky myriad of rules and regulations facing those wishing to open a retail liquor store in the state, much less those who are looking to become one of the first in Johnson County.