Tennessee Revamps Laws for Distilling Whiskey

Tennessee Revamps Laws for Distilling Whiskey

A couple of years ago, Tennessee dramatically changed liquor laws for distilleries, paving the way for whiskey making in places like Nashville and Gatlinburg. This year, Tennessee is changing distillery laws again, and as we read the law, making Tennessee more friendly to making hooch, legally that is.

Rob Pinson, go to man for distilleries on the Bonelaw Alcoholic Beverage Team, has been following the bill as it wound its way through a particularly brutal political process. The bill has cleared the House and is up for vote tomorrow in the Senate. The official history and language of the bill is here.

There may be minor changes, but this is how Rob reads the new law:

  • The following locations are eligible for a distillery:

    • Cities and counties where it was allowed under 2009 law

    • Pigeon Forge and Sevierville (as premier type tourists resorts)

    • Incorporated cities with double referendum

    • Unincorporated parts of counties (and cities with a population of less than 1,000 persons located in such counties) that have LBD approved somewhere in the county and retail package stores approved somewhere in the county

    • Locations on the National Register of Historic Places where liquor has been distilled in the past (meant to include a location in Greenbrier)

  • Any city or county described above (except Greenbrier) has 45 days to opt out of this legislation.  After 45 days, any person can write a letter of intent to distill to such city or county and the city or county is prohibited from opting out until such letter is withdrawn or the resulting application is denied.  Any city or county can opt back into eligibility at any time.

  • Persons who have manufacturing licenses granted or applications pending with either the TTB or TABC by July 1, 2013, may be allowed to receive a distilling license as long as they were eligible to apply under now current law.  If such licenses are issued, then the jurisdictions in which these licensees are located are eligible for other manufacturers.  These persons do not appear to be subject to the opt-out provisions above.

  • High alcohol beer laws do not appear to be impacted

  • Previously issued distillery licenses by TABC are ratified.

  • Distilleries will automatically be allowed to have retail sales and offer tours and samples without need for local approval and separate liquor license; size restrictions on sales; expanded hours of sale; Sunday sales from noon-7pm; can sell at retail anywhere on premises where permitted by federal law; must involve wholesale in retail sales and local inspection fees must be collected and paid by wholesaler for such retail sales

  • If the city or county has distance requirements for beer, then such distance requirements shall apply to the building which contains the distillery's retail business with regard to churches and schools, measured building-to-building.

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