|Legal Opinion: |
Text of Document: June 14, 1995
Your question is, can the city inspect a private club that has a beer license? Yes is the oral answer I gave you on the telephone. This letter confirms that answer.
The Tennessee Supreme Court held in State ex rel. Amvets Post 27 v. Beer Board, 717 S.W.2d 878 (1986) that a private club is required to obtain a beer permit. There is no question but what a municipality's police can go into any establishment that has a beer permit and make reasonable inspections of the place. But the Court itself also pointed to Tennessee code Annotated, section 57-5-202(b), which provides that:
When local or municipal beer or alcohol commissions responsible for controlling the sale of beer find violations as defined in this chapter, in the sale of beer or malt beverages consumed on premises that result in the suspension of operation for specified periods of time, such beer or malt beverage sale suspension may also include suspension of such establishment's authority to sell alcoholic beverages for the same period of time and said local or municipal commissions shall serve notice of the alcohol beverage suspension upon the alcohol beverage commission, which shall review that suspension within thirty (30) days of receipt of such notice, and render a decision affirming or reversing such suspension... [At 880]
The authority of the municipality to suspend the beer license of a private club would surely permit the municipality to inspect such an establishment for violations of the beer law. In fact the Court also said, that "... this statute seems to indicate that local beer boards have supervision and police authority over state licensees in the dispensation of beer." [At 880] That conclusion is also supported by the extremely broad authority municipalities have to regulate the sale of beer in Tennessee. [See Watkins v. Naifeh, 635 S.W.2d 104 (1982).]
Incidentally, my opinion is also that while the ABC has been given the authority to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages, municipalities retain police power over such establishments. For that reason, I think the municipality's police would still be entitled to make reasonable inspections of places that sell alcoholic beverages but do not have a beer permit for the purpose of insuring they are complying with state law governing the sale of such beverages. However, we need not even resolve that question because the private club in question has a beer permit.
I would warn the private club that any refusal on its part to permit the municipality's police to enter the club for the purpose of making reasonable inspections to ensure that the club is complying with the city's beer regulations will jeopardize its beer permit, and possibly its liquor license.
Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant