Liquor petition expected this week

  By Thomas Wilson
  star staff
  A petition asking for a referendum giving Elizabethton citizens the opportunity to vote on liquor by the drink and package stores is expected to be submitted to the Carter County Election Commission office for verification this week.
  After years of rumor and failed attempts, the petition could set in motion a new avenue of development for the city currently undergoing a commercial transformation into a more service-based economy.
  To be placed on the ballot as a referendum, a petition must bear the signatures of at least 10 percent of registered voters in the county or municipality who voted in the last gubernatorial election. The petition to place a referendum for spirited beverages before city of Elizabethton voters requires approximately 316 signatures verified by county Election Commission officials. The petition must be submitted by Sept. 3 to have the petition's signatures verified and validated.
  The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC), which regulates liquor sales and licensing, issues liquor licenses for restaurants and package stores. Restaurants pony up an annual fee of $600 to $1,050 - 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 $500, according to the commission's license schedule.
  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.
  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 and pay an annual fee of $250.
  The Tennessee Department of Revenue reported collecting $3.4 million in mixed drink taxes for the 2004 fiscal year. Local municipalities collect a portion of that tax.
  Permits are required for all employees who serve liquor to the public. Employees must be 18 years of age to serve and must obtain an employee work permit 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.
  Other requirements include a price schedule of drinks being served at the establishment, and documentation proving 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. The business must provide a separate list of officers (with their titles) and owners with 5 percent or more of ownership, and the amount of percentage 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 and a printed menu from the restaurant must also be provided.
  An inspection of the restaurant by a ABC representative is made after an application has been submitted to the commission office and the establishment is ready to open.
  Once the application is approved and a bond from the department of revenue has been obtained, a restaurant can receive the license the following day. After application materials have been turned into this office and the establishment is completely open for business, an ABC agent will inspect the premises.
  Alcoholic beverage wholesalers must remit a gallonage tax on sales of alcoholic beverages. Tennessee licensed distilleries and wineries remit tax on products for their own use. Beverage tax on the sale of distilled spirits is presently set at $4.40 per gallon and $1.21 for wine.