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Booze Reform

Lawmakers tap bills against open containers and for Sunday wine sales.



Nashville is flooded with new booze laws this year as many Tennessee General Assembly members want to change where, when, and what you can drink.

No roadies

It is perfectly legal for passengers to drink alcohol in moving vehicles, according to Tennessee state law, but some state legislators and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam want to ban road sodas from Beale Street to State Street.

A new bill would end the so-called "pass the bottle" rule. However, many open container bills have come but have always gone in the legislature. Why? Well, it's been long rumored around Legislative Plaza that lawmakers like to have a nip on the way to college football games.

But the new bill has an extra push this year, energizing anti-roadie hopefuls. Haslam's administration, which is hot on finding funds for road projects, has said that leaving the open container loophole open costs about $18 million in federal road funding each year.

The bill is carried by Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) and Sen. Sara Kyle (D-Memphis).

But check local laws before popping a top. Memphis law, for example, bars drivers and passengers from drinking in moving cars. Get caught, and it's a $50 fine.

Wine on Sundays? - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Wine on Sundays?

Sunday sales

Legislators want to put a little more fun in your Sunday Funday.

A bill filed last week would allow package stores and retailers to sell wine any time beer is sold. That means wine would be available for sale in grocery stores at noon and that liquor stores could be open on Sunday offering wine and spirits. Bill sponsors Rep. Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga) and Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) say they hope the move accelerates wine sales across the state.

Red White and Food, the same coalition of Tennessee food stores that pushed for wine sales in grocery stores, is now pushing for what it calls "seven day sales" of wine. That group says beer can be sold seven days per week as can wine and spirits at Tennessee restaurants and bars. Thirty-eight states now allow seven-day sales of wine or spirits.

"If Sunday is when you do your food shopping and you want to pick up a bottle of wine to go with dinner, you are out of luck," reads the Red White and Food site for seven-day sales. "Even more confounding for shoppers is the fact that on Sundays beer is for sale right across the aisle from the wine."

County wine sales

A new bill would allow wine sales in grocery stores in counties "within which five or more municipalities have authorized such retail wine sales by retail food stores."

Art galleries

Galleries would only have to make 80 percent of revenues from art sales to serve wine to patrons, if a new bill passes.

Wine festivals

A new bill would allow wineries to increase the number of festivals they can hold each year from eight to 12.


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