NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The pandemic-era executive order of allowing alcoholic drinks to be sold to-go may soon continue as state law if a bill passes through the state senate.
When the COVID-19 shutdown first started and bars and restaurants closed their doors to customers, Governor Bill Lee signed an order to allow to-go drinks to be legally purchased in Tennessee.
The rule was helpful to many establishments that didn't have other ways to make money. In particular, it was beneficial to Midnight Oil. Owner Nate Bagby said even though the pizza joint and bar had just opened, the way the building was designed made it easy to serve drinks out the front window.
"When we went to be able to sell to-go drinks, we had accidentally set ourselves up with the perfect situation where it was a very walkable neighborhood," said Bagby. "A lot of people like to get out and walk their dogs, walk their strollers, they were able to come up, get a drink, go about their business, maybe even come up and get another one."
Bagby said he believes the accessibility helped increase the bar's popularity.
Business has since improved as the restaurant is now reopened, but Bagby remembers early on thinking he wished to-go drinks became permanent in Tennessee.
A bill in the state legislature could legalize the practice for the next two years when it will be looked at again. HB0241 was passed by the House and is set to go before the Senate Wednesday.
Sponsor Republican Rep. Bob Ramsey of Maryville said he thinks this will continue to help some of the state's smaller bars have more income even after the pandemic ends.
"People are afraid now still to travel, they're afraid to travel, they're afraid to eat out and I think that this is going to make a difference," he said.