Gov. Lee to sign ‘to-go’ alcohol bill, despite concerns of sales to minors

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — To-go alcohol is sticking around, at least until 2024, lawmakers say it’s one of the more successful executive orders Governor Bill Lee signed during the pandemic.

His office told News 2 he plans to sign the bill into law. This is despite some concern from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission about unauthorized sales to minors.

“You’re all aware that our restaurants are really, really suffering right now during this pandemic,” Sen. Brian Kelsey said.

Lawmakers cleared the way for Governor Bill Lee to sign a measure Thursday, which would allow to-go sales of alcohol and it’s drawing mixed emotions.

“I think that would be okay,” said April Tesch, a supporter of the bill. “If you’re having a couple drinks and then you want to take one to go on your walk home to your hotel.”

June Jones, however, isn’t on board with to-go cups.

“We’ve seen a lot of ugly accidents, my husband being in the fire service, so yeah I mean I’m not saying close the bars down, but people can stay inside and drink, that’s good enough,” she said.

Lawmakers say it’s all a part of alleviating some of the ‘suffering’ restaurants are facing.

The bill allows the sale of alcohol as long as it is accompanied by the purchase of food and securely packaged in a container or bottle.

“We would hope that restaurants and bars who are going to be participating in this will do a good job of being diligent about ensuring that whoever is serving that alcohol is not serving it to customers who are under 21,” Michelle Rozell, the marketing program specialist at Mothers Against Drunk Driving said.

One of the major concerns from organizations like MADD is illegal sales of alcohol.

In a November report from the Tennessee ABC, of the 41 establishments offering curbside or carryout alcohol that were checked, 26 sold to a minor for a compliance rate of 36 percent.

The agency calling the rate ‘incompatible’ with regulatory standards and expectations.

“We want them to make sure that they’ve trained the people who are going to be providing that alcohol or serving that alcohol, make sure those folks know what is or isn’t allowed,” Rozell said.

Barrett Hobbs, a Nashville business owner, released a statement to News 2 saying “It will take years for our industry to recover from the last 14 months. To-go drinks are part of most hospitality areas that are vibrant and promote walkability. I hope the state of Tennessee continues to look for ways for our industry to grow.”

Drinking alcohol and driving still remains illegal in Tennessee. Bars and restaurants are also prevented from serving or delivering alcoholic beverages or beer to those who are visibly intoxicated.

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