Beer law may fall flat for city

Gary B. Gray • Apr 4, 2014 at 11:07 PM

Legislation passed this week that adds local governments to the list of entities legally allowed to apply for and receive permits to sell beer.

The measure sponsored by Republican state Rep. Ryan Hayes of Knoxville passed the House on Thursday in a 78-8 vote. The Senate voted 27-4 in favor of the bill last month. The bill now heads to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

The bill basically standardizes the wide practice of municipal facilities, such as golf courses, selling beer after a recent state attorney general’s opinion found state law limited permits to private entities.

That opinion was issued after Clarksville officials raised concerns about a 2012 ordinance allowing beer sales at city-owned venues for special events. Other cities like Nashville decided to continue selling beer at golf courses while the Legislature considered updating state law on the matter.

Johnson City holds a beer permit at the city-owned Buffalo Valley Golf Course. The course is in Unicoi County, and the town of Unicoi’s aldermen serves as the course’s Beer Board.

“This would allow us to issue permits for various city-sponsored events, but I see it as being very, very limited,” City Manager Pete Peterson said. “Buffalo Valley is one thing. But city code does not allow beer sales at any municipally held park, so that eliminates Winged Deer and all other parks.

“Cardinal Park had beer sales for a short time. Although the city owns the park, for that to happen again there, the Johnson City Sports Foundation would have to apply for a permit, and that’s not likely to happen. When they did have beer sales, it brought in very little revenue.”

Pine Oaks Golf Course is the only other municipal golf course in Johnson City, and it does not offer beer.

“Because of the family oriented nature of Pine Oaks, we decided not to sell beer there,” said Jim Hughes, Johnson City director of golf. “It’s not a great revenue source. And if you’re coming to a golf course to get drunk, that’s not going to happen. Buffalo Valley is more of a resort-type facility.”

Under present law, it is unlawful to operate any business engaged in the sale, distribution, manufacture or storage of beer without a permit issued by the county or city where such business is located. Permits are issued to the owner of the business, whether a person, firm, corporation, joint-stock company, syndicate or association.

This bill revises the provisions governing to whom the permits will be issued to include the owner of the business or other entity responsible for the premises for which the permit is sought, whether a person, firm, corporation, joint-stock company, syndicate, association or governmental entity where the governing body has authorized such sales of beer.

Currently, there are 13 golf courses in the Tri-Cities. Five are municipal, or city-owned. Four are public courses and four are private.

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