Restaurants serving to-go alcoholic drinks continue to fail age checks

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Posted at 10:20 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 23:45:42-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gov. Bill Lee allowed restaurants and bars to serve to-go alcohol during the pandemic to help keep them afloat. On Wednesday, state lawmakers passed a bill to keep alcohol for at least two more years.

While it positively impacts businesses' bottom lines, some may not realize the negative impact it can have. The state says those to-go drinks are also being sold to minors.

The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission conducted undercover compliance checks and found that during the pandemic last year, among bars and restaurants offering to-go alcohol, nearly 42 percent sold to a minor.

And the numbers are even worse just looking at October and November of last year, with more than 63% of bars and restaurants that were checked selling to-go alcohol to someone underage.

"Anytime compliance rates are a little low, it is concerning to us," said Aaron Rummage with the Tennesse Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

The head of the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association explained those poor numbers while defending the to-go alcohol bill in front of lawmakers last month.

"What we didn't have in the governor's executive order was training, and we put that into this bill," said Rob Mortensen with the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association. "So all the folks who deliver the drinks to the car have to be trained now, they weren't before."

Mothers Against Drunk Driving Tennessee says that training is a good first step.

"We expect that anyone serving alcohol should know exactly what they need, to make sure there's no one under 21 purchasing that alcohol, so we would absolutely support training programs," said Michelle Rozell with Mothers Against Drunk Driving Tennessee.

Just like the Governor’s rule, there are limits to the new law. Alcohol must be accompanied by a food purchase, and only one drink can be bought with each purchase.