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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Original Author: Carrier, Angie
Date of Material: 02/22/2018

Alcoholic beverages--Laws and regulations
Alcoholic beverages--Municipal ordinances

City Versus State Regulation of the Sale of Beer and Liquor

Reviewed Date: 07/15/2021
MTAS was asked "what is the distance requirement (from church, school, public gathering place) for the State of Tennessee regarding sale of liquor and sale of beer (on-premise)?" The following information addresses the authority to regulate distance requirements.

Dear City Official,

I have attached the state law that applies to your question. The state does not impose distance requirements on beer permit holders, although it allows cities to do so:
  • “the power of such cities, towns and Class B counties to issue licenses shall in no event be greater than the power herein granted to counties, but cities, towns and Class B counties may impose additional restrictions, fixing zones and territories and provide hours of opening and closing and such other rules and regulations as will promote public health, morals and safety as they may by ordinance provide.”   See Tennessee Code Annotated §57-5-106. 
  • "State liquor-by-the-drink licensees, if they wish to sell beer, are not exempt from the minimum distance requirements of local beer ordinances." See Op.Atty.Gen. No. 99-098, April 30, 1999. Tennessee Code Annotated § 57-4-101
So, if the establishment wishes to sell beer, it must obtain a beer permit from the local government and meet any distance requirements set by the governing body. A liquor license does not automatically give the establishment the authority to sell beer. I have attached the reference opinion from the attorney general.

Let me know if you need any additional information.
References to the Tennessee Code Annotated may explored here in the free online Tennessee Code Unannotated:
Angie Carrier
Municipal Management Consultant

Reference Document(s):
file TN AG opinion 99098.pdf