Historically, municipal beer boards have exercised significant regulatory power over local retailers of beer for off-premises consumption. Our state legislature has for years granted municipalities the authority to either prohibit or allow and regulate the sale of beer within their borders. With the passage of the Responsible Vendor Act, which took effect July 1, 2007, some of the regulatory powers of beer boards were narrowed. The act creates a voluntary program for retail vendors.
The Responsible Vendor program requires participating vendors to comply with employee training requirements, universal customer identification, and mandatory signage. In exchange for complying with the program, certified vendors will receive reduced punishments for illegal sales to minors. Once certified, participating vendors are not subject to permit revocation or suspension upon an initial violation. Instead they are subject to only a civil penalty not exceeding $1,000 per offense of sale to a minor or other offense. Permanent revocation will not be allowable absent two violations within a 12-month period. T.C.A. § 57-5-108 (a) (1) (C).
Nonparticipating vendors will face increased civil penalties. A noncompliant vendor guilty of sale to a minor will be subject to suspension or revocation or a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500. T.C.A. §57-5-108 (a). Municipal beer boards also may revoke the license of a nonparticipating vendor for a first offense. These discrepancies in punishment will serve as a major incentive for retail vendors to become certified.
Under the Responsible Vendor Act, participating vendors agree to submit all new clerks to a training program within 61 days of hire. The training, which must be approved by the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC), must cover the sale of beer for off-premises consumption, methods of recognizing and dealing with minors who attempt to buy beer, and procedures for refusing to sell beer to minors. Participating vendors pay an initial $35 fee per clerk and an annual fee ranging from $35 to $250 based upon the number of certified clerks who participate. The vendor provides ABC with the names and identifying information for each new clerk, allowing ABC to keep a list of all certified clerks in Tennessee. If a certified clerk is determined to have made an illegal sale to a minor, the certification of that clerk becomes invalid, and the clerk may not apply for recertification for one year.
The Responsible Vendor Act protections for retail beer permit holders should be addressed in municipal beer ordinances. To facilitate this, a sample ordinance for amending a beer ordinance to add such provisions follows. An updated model code section on beer also follows.
Further information can be found at the Alcoholic Beverages Commission website at http://www.tennessee.gov/abc/.