Liquor license comes with price -- and paperwork

By Thomas Wilson

   So you want to have an establishment in Tennessee where folks can bend an elbow behind three feet of wood?
   You may need a stiff drink after filling out the paperwork and paying the fees mandated by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC), which regulates liquor sales and licensing.
   The Commission issues liquor licenses for restaurants and package stores. Restaurants pony up an annual fee of $600 to $1,000 -- depending on their seating capacity -- to obtain a liquor-by-the-drink license from the Commission. An applicant seeking to serve liquor in a private club pays a fee of $300, according to the ABC.
   According to state law, a restaurant must have a seating capacity of at least 75 tables, supplied with adequate kitchen and dining room equipment and have the serving of food as the establishment's principal business.
   Purveyors of potent potables must complete a series of applications and exercises in accordance with state law and regulated by the Commission. Those applications include:
   * Obtaining a sales tax number and bond form from the Tennessee Department of Revenue.
   * A standard, notarized application form filled out completely and turned into this office at least three weeks in advance. Applications are reviewed every Tuesday. Once the application is approved and a liquor-by-the-drink bond from the Tennessee Department of Revenue has been obtained, a restaurant can receive the license the following day.
   * Questionnaires provided by the Commission must be filled out by all owners, partners, officers, managers and/or any persons who own five percent or more in the corporation or the business.
   * Permits are required for all employees who serve liquor to the public. Employees must be 18 years of age to serve liquor and must obtain an employee work permit card. A server's permit costs $5 per card. After receiving their temporary permit card, a server has 30 days to take a server training class to receive their permanent card, which is good for three years from the temporary date. This fee can only be paid by company check, cashier's check or money order.
   * A price schedule of drinks being served at the establishment must be provided to the Commission.
   * A lease, deed, or other documentation which shows that the applicant is actually leasing or in possession of the property must be provided.
   * If an applicant is a corporation, a limited liability company, or formal partnership, the company must submit their charter issued by the state of Tennessee. If a company holds an out of state charter, approval to do business in Tennessee must be obtained from the Tennessee Secretary of State's office. If a corporation is registered out-of-state, then a copy of that charter is also to be furnished.
   * A separate list of officers (with their titles) and owners with five percent or more of ownership, and the amount of percentage, needs to be furnished with the application.
   * A use and occupancy approval letter must be submitted to the local building codes department in the city or county where the establishment is located.
   * A printed menu from the restaurant must be provided.
   * An inspection of the restaurant by an ABC representative is made after an application has been submitted to the Commission office and the establishment is completely ready to open for business.
   * The Commission also requires an applicant to pay the same licensing fee to the local county clerk's office, after the applicant has received a license from the ABC office.
   * An applicant must obtain and complete a federal form to sell liquor for submission to the Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms with an annual fee of $250.
   * After application materials have been turned into this office and the establishment is completely open for business, an ABC agent will inspect the premises.
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   Annual Liquor License Fees for Restaurants
   75-125 seats: $600
   126-175 seats: $750
   176-225 seats: $800
   226-275 seats: $900
   276 seats and over: $1000
   Source: Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission