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New Kid in Town Lays Down the Law at Tennessee ABC
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New Kid in Town Lays Down the Law at Tennessee ABC

09.27.12
Things have been changing quite rapidly at the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. 1970's Rock Kings the Eagles sum it up well:

Where you been lately? There's a new kid in town
Everybody loves him, don't they? ...Everybody's talking 'bout the new kid in town.

Keith Bell was named ABC Assistant Director nearly a year ago. Mr. Bell and staff attorney Ginna Winfree are making waves in the Tennessee liquor-by-the-drink licensing world.

Several LBD industry members have seen an uptick in enforcement and the seriousness of penalties imposed by the ABC. The new kid in town appears to be telling the industry that he is going to make a point of cracking down on industry violations.

Keith Bell is laying down the proverbial law.

With ABC Director Danielle Elks expected to resign at the end of October, Mr. Bell is the heir apparent to the ABC throne.

Ms. Elks has served the ABC for over two decades. During Ms. Elks' reign as Director, the playing field has been mostly neutral. Rules and enforcement priorities have been occasionally tough for industry, but relatively predictable. If you violate the law, you get an expensive fine to make you pay attention. If you fail to do your best to avoid violating the law in the future, you are looking at a suspension or revocation.

The rules have apparently changed.

The TABC has had more than its fair share of relatively high profile negative press in the past few years. Some say the ABC has been drug through the media mud.

We suspect that the ABC Commissioners appointed by Governor Haslam have directed the TABC staff to clean up its act, regardless of whether media criticism was warranted.

We advise folks to avoid playing fast and loose with ABC laws and regs. If caught, penalties are likely to be much stiffer, including imposition of suspensions and revocations for more serious offenses like sales to minors, service to intoxicated patrons and failure to meet food service requirements.

What might have lead to an expensive fine in the past may lead to a notice of a hearing to revoke your liquor license. Expect to serve real suspensions of your license for serious violations.

The new kid in town is walking tall.

The good news is that Mr. Bell has a long career as an entrepreneur in the legal industry and seems to understand that LBD licensees are real business owners working to make a living. He gets it.

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