The state alcohol laws have been updated in Tennessee—at least for the next 24 months. According to a report from WVLT 8 Knoxville, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed the state’s alcohol “to-go” bill into law. An extension of a temporary COVID-19 relief bill, the to-go law will allow carry-out alcohol and alcohol delivery on a two-year trial basis. The law went into effect on July 1st, 2021. In this article, our Knoxville criminal defense lawyer highlights five key things that you should know about Tennessee’s to-go law.
Four Things to Know About the Tennessee ‘To-Go’ Laws
To-Go Alcohol Sales Were Allowed as a Response the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic affected communities across the entire world. The Tennessee Department of Health reports that more than 1 million cases of the virus have been confirmed in the state as of September 1st, 2021. The Tennessee State ‘to-go’ alcohol law was initially put into place as a temporary response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In March and April of 2020, there were significant federal, state, and local restrictions put into place. Among other things, public health measures closed restaurants/bars and put reduced capacity limits in place. The ‘to-go’ alcohol law was designed to help ensure that individuals could support bars, restaurants, and other businesses from the safety of their own home.
Alcohol Carry-Out and Delivery are Now Legal In Tennessee
As it was initially imagined, the Tennessee state ‘to-go’ alcohol law was designed to be a temporary measure focused on helping businesses make it through the COVID-19 pandemic. The law had widely been considered a success. As such, it has been extended. Under the bill signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, the state now permits bars and restaurants to sell alcohol for carry-out customers and to sell alcohol for deliveries. Though, notably, municipal governments (cities and counties) could theoretically put their own alcohol restrictions in place.
The New Law is a Trial Run—To Go Sales Permitted on a Two-Year Basis
The ‘to-go’ alcohol law signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee earlier this summer is not permanent. As crafted by state legislators, the new law is set to go into place on a two-year trial basis. State regulators will study the impact of the legislation when it goes into effect—both from an economic and public health perspective. The to-go alcohol regulations may or may not be extended based on a number of different factors.
Tennessee Still Strictly Enforces Alcohol Laws
Tennessee’s carry-out and delivery alcohol law is a further liberalization of the state’s overall alcohol regulations. At the same time, there are still many strict rules and regulations in place, including criminal statutes. Indeed, state legislators have emphasized that other alcohol-related laws will still be strictly enforced even though the carry out and delivery rules are being loosened up for at least the next two years. Some notable examples of alcohol-related crimes include:
- Drunk Driving: It is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol. State and local law enforcement officers will continue to strictly enforce drunk driving laws. The to-go alcohol regulations do not change these laws in any way. If you were arrested for drunk driving, our Knoxville DUI defense attorney can help.
- Public Intoxication: Public intoxication is still a criminal offense in Tennessee. A person under the influence of a controlled substance in public could be arrested on misdemeanor public intoxication charges. If you or your loved one was arrested for public intoxication, our Knoxville, TN criminal defense lawyer can help.
- Minor in Possession of Alcohol: You must be at least 21 years of age to purchase alcohol via carry out, delivery, or through any other manner. Further, an underaged person cannot lawfully possess alcohol. State authorities will continue to enforce these criminal laws. If you or your child was arrested for a minor in possession of alcohol, our Knoxville misdemeanor defense lawyer can help.
Get Help From an Alcohol Crimes Defense Lawyer in Tennessee
At The Barnes Law Firm, our Tennessee criminal defense attorney has extensive experience handling alcohol-related cases, including DUI charges, public intoxication charges, and minor in possession of alcohol charges. If you or your loved one was charged with an alcohol-related crime, we can help. Give us a call now or connect with us online to arrange your strictly confidential case evaluation. From our law office in Knoxville, we provide criminal defense representation throughout the region, including in Farragut, Oak Ridge, Powell, and Rocky Top.