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Beer Regulations

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Reviewed Date: May 27, 2020

Original Author: 
Hemsley, Sid
Date of Material: 
Feb 1, 2002

Alcoholic beverages
Alcoholic beverages--Laws and regulations
Beer--Laws and regulations
Beer--Licenses and permits

Beer Regulations

An analysis of the law governing the age of persons authorized to sell beer or loiter in establishments that sell beer.


DATE: February 1, 2002

RE: Beer Regulations

You have the following questions:

1. Can the city reduce the age of persons prohibited from loitering about places of business where beer is being sold from 21 to 18?

2. Can the city limit the number of beer permits allowed to be outstanding?

The answer to question 1 is probably yes, but I am puzzled as to why the city would want to do such a thing, unless the city has very tight rules with respect to the kind of establishments that can obtain a beer permit.

The beer laws of the state do produce some anomalies. A person who is less than 21 years of age cannot legally buy beer. However, a person who is 18 years of age can hold a beer permit, and a person who is 18 years of age can legally sell beer in establishments that hold beer permits. Tennessee Code Annotated, § 1-3-113, says:

(a) Notwithstanding any laws to the contrary, any person who is eighteen (18) years of age or older shall have the same rights, duties, and responsibilities as a person who is twenty-one (21) years of age, except as provided in subsection (b) relative to the rights to purchase, possess, transport and consume alcoholic beverages, wine or beer as those terms are defined in title 57.

Subsection (b) provides that it is unlawful for any person under 21 years of age from purchasing, possessing, transporting, or consuming alcoholic beverages, wine or beer, with the following exceptions:

(1) Any person eighteen (18) years of age or older may transport, possess, sell, or dispense alcoholic beverages, wine or beer in the course of such person’s employment... [Emphasis is mine.]

However, ordinarily, it does not seem to me legally prudent for cities to remove the prohibition against persons between the ages of 18–21 years of age from loitering in places where beer is sold, unless the city restricts the issuance of permits to genuine restaurants. Persons 18–21 years of age who go into a genuine restaurant–say, a Pizza Hut or a Logan’s, etc.--that holds a beer permit are probably not going to be in an environment where many alcohol-fueled problems are likely to arise. The same is not true where the same persons can go into a “beer joint,” which makes little or no pretense of being anything else.

2. The answer to question 2 is generally yes. However, cities that have already issued permits above the limitation adopted should be careful to bring the excess number down to proper level in a legal manner. Likewise, they should not engage in other practices that locks-in the permits to certain persons and places. If the city needs any help in drafting a limitation ordinance that will meet legal muster in this area, let me know.

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