Tennessee extends restaurant to-go alcohol sales, for now

alcohol to go
Posted at 5:47 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 22:20:20-04

NASHVILE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There's good news if you enjoyed getting to-go alcohol during the pandemic. A new state law just went into effect July 1, allowing that to continue on a trial-run basis for the next two years.

Krystal Steigler says if it wasn't for to-go alcohol during the lockdown, 12 South Taproom might have been forced to tap out. "During the peak of the pandemic, it really pushed us through," said Steigler.

To-Go Booze
A customer speaks to Krysta Steigler at 12 South Taproom in Nashville

As part of COVID-19 relief, the state allowed restaurants with liquor licenses to temporarily sell to-go alcohol. The move was so popular, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a new law that extends the trial run, but there are rules.

"So we want to have IDs for every cocktail purchased,' said Steigler.

Beer and wine can be bought on their own, but cocktails are limited to the number of legal IDs presented to the bartender and they must be purchased along with food. "But if you are doing liquor, it is required that you purchase some food, which is good for us as well," she said.

Servers also have to remind customers that these to-go drinks can't be used on the go. Only at home or in your hotel room. "Reiterating to them that no, we are not an open container state," said Steigler.

Now that capacity restrictions are a thing of the past, Krysta says carry-out booze is a boom for even more business. "Especially when we’re filling up Friday night, we’re on a wait, we can’t necessarily take everybody that wants to come in. So if we’re able to crank out a couple of drinks for them, fill up a growler, send them some to-go food, it’s more money in the business’s pocket, more money in our pocket, it’s good for everybody," she said.

When it comes time to pay for the drinks, it's not just the restaurants that will benefit. The state is also taxing these drinks so the state projects it could bring in more than $4.7 million dollars in just the first year alone.

But the law may not last. It's set to expire on July 1, 2023, and a few lawmakers vow to repeal it sooner if alcohol-related offenses go up. "I could certainly see it become an issue downtown, but in this neighborhood, I think it's been a really positive thing," said Steigler.

Considering just last month alone, 12 South Taproom set an all-time sales record, they hope they'll get to keep tapping and cashing in. "We want everyone to stay safe, stay happy and stay a little buzzed up," said Steigler.

Supporters of the law hope to make it permanent after this two-year window expires.