Free Booze for Tennessee Retail Package Store Tastings Opens Surprise Can of Worms

Free Booze for Tennessee Retail Package Store Tastings Opens Surprise Can of Worms

As part of the unseemly compromise to pass legislation authorizing the sale of wine in groceries in Tennessee, state law was changed to allow manufacturers to donate product for tastings at retail liquor stores.  We blogged about the new law here.

We have been hearing from reliable sources that some manufacturers are using the tastings law as a conduit to illegally channel free booze to retailers for purchasing product.

Before the Tennessee ABC cracked down on free booze, the industry often gave free booze to a retailer that ordered a certain quantity.  For example, a retailer might get 3 free bottles if it ordered 3 cases.

The TABC cracked down on free booze effective July 1, 2014.

Free booze for tastings gives unscrupulous industry members a way to funnel free product to retailers under the guise of using the product for tastings.

Conjures up Neil Young's bizarre "Welfare Mothers"

Down at every laundromat in town now
(Welfare mothers make better lovers)
While they're washin' you can hear this sound now
(Welfare mothers make better lovers)

We applaud the new law and its goal to allow manufacturers to provide complimentary booze to retailers to help market wine and spirits.  As a business-friendly state, it makes sense.

We strongly support efforts to prevent using the tasting law as a way to avoid the prohibition on free booze.

One idea is to mark free bottles with a label saying that the product is not for sale.  This gives the TABC something to look for in stores.  Another idea is to require wholesalers to break the seal of free product upon delivery to a retailer.  Customers will generally not purchase open stock.

We invite industry members to share tips for ways to short-circuit the use of free tasting product as an illegal incentive for purchases.

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