Big Changes Could Be Coming To TN Bars On July 1st - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Big Changes Could Be Coming To TN Bars On July 1st

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by Chris Cannon

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Patrons of Tennessee restaurants that serve house-infused alcoholic beverages may not be able to purchase those drinks when the state starts enforcing a 2006 law next month.

The law prohibits restaurants from infusing alcohol with food products. It states that is a practice that can only be performed by a licensed distillery.

"They're interpreting it to mean if you are a restaurant you can't put fruit in vodka and infuse the flavor. And we just think that's wrong," according to Will Cheek, a food and beverage law expert.

Cheek contends the intention of the law was not to ban restaurants from taking part in the popular infusion method.

However, new director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission plans to start enforcing the law, as the state interprets it, on July 1st.

Cheek has been in contact with his clients across the state who serve infused alcohol.

"So, everybody we've talked to, we've said, go ahead and phase it out," Cheek said.

That means infused vodka, whiskey, even drinks like Sangria could disappear from drink menus across the state.

"We're fighting this and we're hoping the ABC will not enforce the law, to give us some time to talk to them about it, but right now they've said they're going to enforce it starting July 1st," said Cheek.

As he sees it, Cheek said this law will also crack down on pre-mixed drinks, or any other drink that is mixed and stored for any amount of time afterwards.

The attorney said the enforcement of the law could have an impact on tourism in Tennessee. Cheek contends the state is becoming known for high-end food and cocktails.

"So we're going to lose some of the coolness factor that Tennessee's had," Cheek said.

Cheek said he, and others affected by this law, plan on taking the issue to Tennessee's Capitol Hill.

"We're working with the legislature, and we're discussing with legislators changing the law to make it clear that you can pre-mix and infuse if you're a restaurant.

However, it could be Spring of 2014 before any changes to state law could come about, until then, if enforcement is held up, infused drinks in Tennessee's liquor by the drink establishments will end on July 1st.


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