State cracks down on restaurants selling take-home craft beer
By Joel Davis | (email@example.com)
Fans of the craft beers served by the Smoky Mountain Brewery in Maryville can no longer enjoy the beverages at home since a recent state crackdown on restaurant sales for off-premise consumption. In September, the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission issued a memorandum advising that restaurants holding liquor-by-the-drink licenses were prohibited from the sale of “growlers,” jugs filled with draft beer for take-out.“It has come to our attention that many of the restaurants ... are selling beer products for off-premise consumption in violation of Tennessee statutes and TABC rules and regulations,” wrote TABC Assistant Director Keith Bell.
This led to the decision by the management of the Copper Cellar family of restaurants, which includes the Smoky Mountain Brewery chain, to cease selling the beer for take-home consumption.
“It certainly means that we have ceased selling off-premise beer in four Smoky Mountain Brewery locations and three Calhoun’s,” said Copper Cellar COO Bart Fricks said. “It also means that we are going to have to change our procedures to continue to sell off-premises beer in our three other Smoky Mountain Brewery locations.”
Ginna Winfree, TABC staff attorney, said there has been no change in the law. “Off-promises sales for off-premises consumption is not allowed in a TABC-licensed restaurant,” she said. “However, if a brewery has a contiguous yet separate area, they may sell for off-premises consumption. They have to have a in-house brewery, and it has to be contiguous yet separate.”
There are four Smoky Mountain Brewery locations around East Tennessee: Knoxville, Maryville, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Fricks said that changes will be made at the three locations with in-house brewing facilities in order to resume sales for off-premise consumption.
“What we have to do is take people into a separate room and give them the beer. ... We’re at least set up in those restaurants where we can do that. It’s going to be an inconvenience to the people purchasing it, but we can still provide the product for them.”
Unless state law changes, though, take-home sales will not resume at the Smoky Mountain Brewery in Maryville because it does not have an in-house brewery. “We obviously would like to see the law or regulation changed to where we can go back to selling off premise beer that is made by our company to our guests who choose to buy it,” Fricks said.
The company has been encouraging its customers to communicate with state legislators about changing state regulations to allow the off-premise sales at all locations.
Not first crackdown
This is not the first time that the TABC has cracked down on the sales. A previous memorandum, issued to all licensed micro-breweries and brew-pubs in the state by TABC in November 1995, contained the same reminder.
The 1995 memorandum did include guidance for steps the businesses could take to legally sell take-home beer to customers: “... nothing would prohibit a restaurant/micro-brewer licensee from selling its malt beverages for consumption off the premises, if, and only if, the establishment physically segregated the restaurant facilities from the micro-brewery operations, and if the sales of the beer occurs from the premises of the brewery site. A glass wall separating the brewery operations from the restaurant would be sufficient.”