The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s executive director retreated Monday from plans to begin enforcing on July 1 a law he had interpreted as prohibiting restaurants from soaking fruits and juices in alcoholic beverages to create “infused” mixed drinks.
Critics had disputed the legal interpretation and said the prohibition would hurt the business of bars and restaurants that cater to customers with specialty drinks.
In an emailed statement, Keith Bell said the TABC still believes “the process of manufacturing infused alcoholic beverages, not for immediate consumption” by those holding only a liquor-by-the-drink license is a violation of a 2006 law and ABC rules.
“The TABC nevertheless determined it to be in the public interest that the regulatory enforcement of this prohibition be indefinitely suspended,” Bell said.
The retreat came after a Monday morning meeting between Bell and representatives of groups who disagreed with his interpretation of the 2006 law, including the Tennessee Hospitality Association and the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“There was a full and frank discussion of the matter and what was intended and what was not” by the 2006 law, said Dan Haskell, general counsel and lobbyist for the Tennessee Hospitality Association, which represents restaurants and motels.
With enforcement of the ban on infused drinks suspended, Haskell said he now anticipates further discussion on whether the ABC needs to change its rules or the Legislature needs to clarify the law in the 2014 session.
The law in question dealt with distilleries, effectively allowing them to sell products they make on premises that amount to a pre-mixed drink — Jack Daniels Lemonade or Jack Citrus, for example, produced by the whiskey distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn.
Bell decided earlier that the language of the law prohibits anyone but distilleries from mixing fruits and juices with alcohol if they are then stored and not consumed immediately. Such storage could raise health concerns, he said.
“I think calmer heads will prevail,” said Haskell, contending the the state Department of Health, which inspects restaurants, would have raised the issue if there were any health concerns. Connoisseurs believe some period of time is needed for the “flavors to marry up,” he said.
A 2006 law that bans Tennessee restaurants from infusing alcohol with food products, even non-alcoholic beverages, will be enforced by the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission starting July 1, reports WKRN-TV. The ban covers flavored liquor, such as infused whiskey, and pre-made mixed drinks, like margaritas.
In less than two weeks, each drink will have to be made to order when the ban by the Tennessee Alcohol and Beverage Commission (TABC) becomes effective.
The new head of the TABC, Keith Bell, plans to enforce the 2006 law. Only licensed distilleries will be able to perform the practice.
Restaurant owners like Josh Rew, who is opening a French bistro in a few weeks in Whites Creek, planned to have a produce-driven infusion cocktail on his menu. He said the new enforcement will set back Nashville’s cultural scene and could hurt his and other restaurant owners’ bottom line.
“If you are able to prep, then you can definitely get drinks out quicker. You can do higher volume, which means your profit margin goes up. People are happier, more word of mouth, and it definitely snow balls, but it could snowball in the other direction as well,” said Rew of the up and coming Chelsea Bistro.
The TABC cites health and safety concerns when restaurants infuse alcohol.
And, from WPLN: In an email, the commission says despite what some people fear, the rule does not apply to drinks like margaritas or sangria. But Nashville lawyer Will Cheek warns restaurants that infuse liquors don’t want to risk having their license pulled.
“If you’ve got pineapple and fruit sitting in a vat of vodka, you need to be pulling that stuff out–it needs to be gone by July 1st.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The beer industry has swung its support behind a bill to allow Tennessee supermarkets and convenience stores to sell wine as long as the measure also allows places to sell strong beer.
Tennessee Malt Beverage Association President Rich Foge confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday that his board decided to drop its long opposition to changing the law. In return, the beer makers want a provision allowing grocery stores to sell high-gravity beer, which has higher alcohol content and is currently only allowed to be sold in liquor stores.
“If the marketplace is going to change where regular beer and wine are sold side-by-side on a grocery store shelf, high-gravity beer should be, too,” Foge said.
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, have made it a priority to pass the bill seeking to allow cities and counties that already allow liquor sales to hold referendums on whether to allow supermarket wine sales.
Foge said the speakers’ strong support for the measure played into his association’s decision to change course on the bill.
“We had a long discussion about it and one of things that got serious consideration is that the speakers of both chambers urged the parties to come to the table,” he said. “And we’re heeding that advice.”
The bill opposed by liquor wholesalers and the association representing package store owners has cleared its first legislative committees in both chambers. The Senate Finance Committee was scheduled to take up the measure on Tuesday.
Tennessee’s beer distributors have launched an effort to
change the state’s tax system for beer — basically moving it from a tax based on price to a tax based on volume. As things stand now, ennessee is reported as having the highest beer tax in the nation. News release from Tennessee Malt Beverage Association:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A new legislative proposal promises to bring logic to Tennessee law and stabilize an out-of-control situation that has pushed the state into the beer-tax stratosphere.
Tennessee has the nation’s highest effective beer tax rate, 12 percent higher than No. 2 Alaska, and it is rising higher every year, regardless of whether beer sales rise. This effect is the result, likely unintended, from beer-tax policy established by the State of Tennessee in 1954. Since that time, Tennessee has blown past every state to be the nation’s highest taxer of beer.
“Tennessee beer drinkers are already paying more than their fair share, but this is getting out of control,” said Scott Turner, president of Ajax Turner Co. Inc. “We are completely out of step with the nation’s 49 other states. In addition to higher taxes, this is having a detrimental effect on economic development and consumer choice.”
State Sen. Bill Ketron is sponsoring legislation that would remove drug enforcement authority from the Alcoholic Beverage Commission and place it under the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, according to the Daily News Journal. Senate Bill 3358, which clarifies several ABC-related laws, would remove the commission’s ability to enforce Tennessee’s felony laws dealing with marijuana. It also would take away the authority of ABC officers to make felony drug arrests in establishments selling alcoholic beverages.
Ketron said he proposed the bill to remove the ABC from its role with the Governor’s Task Force on Marijuana Eradication, which makes drug busts and cuts down pot grown in isolated places across the state.
“I was trying to look at how we can reduce costs,” Ketron said. The Murfreesboro Republican said he believes it would be more efficient to shift ABC’s law enforcement powers dealing with marijuana eradication to Ed Jones, assistant commissioner of TBI.
Ketron said he filed the legislation before a news report last week about marijuana possibly being found at the home of ABC Executive Director Danielle Elks.
When law enforcement officers saw what appeared to be a small amount of marijuana when at the home of Danielle Elks, director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission, they did not launch an investigation, reports WSMV-TV.
Apparently, that related to the circumstances. The officers went to the home last October to notify Elks that her husband had been killed in a traffic accident. Elks was married to Joel “Taz” Digregorio, the beloved keyboardist in the Charlie Daniels band.
When Digregorio was killed in a car crash on Oct. 12, a THP trooper and two Dickson County deputies went to his home for a death notification.
Elks was in Memphis at the time, but the officers didn’t know…. According to the police summaries, the officers found the back door open and entered, concerned there may have been an intruder and wanting to check on the welfare of the occupants.
When the deputies and the state trooper went in, the deputies say they saw what they both suspected to be marijuana on the kitchen table, describing it as a “green, leafy substance.”
The deputies also found rolling papers, and noted that there was a Governor’s Marijuana Eradication Task Force sticker in the kitchen.
One of the deputies wrote, “It (the suspected marijuana) was brought to the attention of the THP officer.”
One of Elks’ business cards was also found in the home.
A source close to the investigation confirmed there was no attempt to collect the substance, and the THP trooper never launched an investigation.
The ABC employee said it sends the wrong message, and that if drugs are found at an average citizens’ home, even under terrible circumstances, it can still be investigated.
“If you’ve got two people living in the same house, and they don’t know what the other is doing, there’s something bad wrong,” the ABC employee said.
Digregorio’s autopsy showed both alcohol and marijuana were in his system when his car crashed.
“Some people at home seeing this might be saying, the woman just lost her husband. Give her a break,” Finley asked.
… The Channel 4 I-Team was respectful of Danielle Elks given her recent loss, but we did ask her to speak with us to give her side of this story. She declined.
The following release has been sent as a response to the previous posting of a release from the House Democratic Caucus by the Beverage Association of Tennessee:
The Beverage Association of Tennessee opposes HB 0537 because it subtlety and mistakenly joins the popular belief that our products are the chief or principal cause of the obesity issue and the peripheral health issues of diabetes, heart disease and stroke with a tax policy to alter social behavior.
The proponents state, “Families have to buy food, but they can cut back on non-essential items like soda when times get tough,” It is offensive, arrogant and insulting to Tennessee shopper’s to argue that they need the government to tell them what is essential or non-essential when it comes to their personal grocery purchases and health.
Calories from sugar-sweetened beverages–including soft drinks, juice drinks, flavored waters and other beverages–make up only 7 percent of the calories in the American diet. That means 93 percent of the calories come from other foods and beverages.
According to a 2005-2006 National Cancer Institute analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data.
In keeping with the belief that nutrition and physical activity are equal components in insuring a healthy Tennessee, we strongly believe that the issue needs to be balanced in its approach. We believe “It’s not the soda-it’s the sofa! It’s not the cola-it’s the couch!”
While beverages and food play a role in determining good health, so do other important factors to address obesity, which among them should be to focus on energy balance — helping Tennesseans balance calories consumed with calories expended.
The soft-drink industry is acting responsibly by responding to consumer demand by providing a myriad of beverage choices in a wide array of calorie ranges. In fact, from 1998 to 2008, the industry cut the total beverage calories it brought to market by 21 percent, through the innovation of more no- and low-calorie beverages and smaller-portion options.
Lastly, in the past three years there have been studies addressing the concern over the rising obesity in pets. We do not believe we have seen Barney the Beagle, Suzy the St. Bernard, or Felix the cat laying around guzzling soft drinks and getting obese. They are obese because their owners/masters feed them too much and exercise themselves and their pets too little.