Are Liquor Licenses of the Future Bound for Tennessee?

Are Liquor Licenses of the Future Bound for Tennessee?

We got a glimpse of the future of liquor licensing at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators. Our California Compatriot and Licensing Wizard Extraordinaire Mike Brewer lead a panel that spotlighted new liquor licenses to facilitate innovation among restaurateurs and other purveyors of beer, wine and spirits.

One of the hottest trends making its way around the world is sky dining. Diners are seated around a table with chefs in the middle and then hoisted high into the air by a crane. Learn more here.


So how exactly does one obtain a liquor license for a premises dangled high above the ground at a different place each night?

Remarkably, Tennessee may be a trendsetter on this question, at least for wine and spirits. We suspect a caterer can simply file a notice of catered event for sky dining, although being licensed for beer could be more challenging, depending on the city.

Don't expect sky dining to appear at the foot of Beale Street or over the Cumberland River any time soon - we understand that the first planned US event will be in Las Vegas.

Here is a list of other trends in search of a legal way to serve alcoholic beverages:

Food trucks

Pop up restaurants

Pop up concert venues


Clothing, jewelry and other high end stores

Tupperware wine parties

Self serve drink machines like IPourIt and Wine Station

Smart device ordering at venues

Our personal favorite are apps that allow you to order a drink at a concert, game or other event on  your phone. Its not quite like Star Trek - you cannot reach into your phone to retrieve a frosty beverage - yet - but your drink is either delivered to you or you are notified when you can stop by a counter to retrieve your drink. Best of all, most apps allow for on-line payment. Just show your ID.

Serving wine at high end retail stores is a pressing issue. Many retail stores offer liquor without liquor licenses. High end clothing and jewelry retailers have been lubricating wallets with liquor for years. Most think that if there is no charge for the alcohol, a liquor license is not needed.

Not so in most states. Liquor poured to make you spend money generally requires a liquor license.

Pouring without a license is dangerous for a business. Not only are the owners allowing the sale of liquor without a license, insurance may refuse to cover any loses resulting form the illegal sale of alcohol. If a customer has a liquor-related car accident after the event, the business may be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more. Without any insurance.

In Tennessee, it is possible to hire a licensed caterer to serve liquor, but Tennessee law prohibits serving free drinks. It is a catch 22.

All these new trends remind us of punk-rockers The Offspring and their 2012 single:

So the end's what you make it
And that's what you're looking for
This is the future
The future is now

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