Tennessee ABC Under Attack

Tennessee ABC Under Attack

One of the national hot button issues among liquor licensing experts is the pressure to merge state ABC's with other agencies, generally as a cost saving measure. Based on what we have heard from the few states that have merged, it is a disaster for licensees.

In Tennessee, a seemingly innocuous bill is pending that takes away criminal enforcement powers from ABC agents. We see this as a step toward merging the ABC with another agency. Removing ABC police powers makes it easier to merge the ABC with other agencies.

Without authority to prosecute crimes, we suspect that pay for agents will be slashed. ABC agents are already paid less than many other state law enforcement officials. This has been a problem for retaining experienced agents.

Liquor laws are complicated. Having qualified ABC agents is good for the industry.

Licensees may see the demise of ABC agent enforcement as a good thing. Based on what we hear from other states, elimination of ABC agents is bad for business.

For example, Missouri merged the ABC and virtually eliminated ABC officers. Lawmakers presumed that local police would enforce sales to minors, among other important laws. Not surprisingly, local police were not trained to enforce liquor laws and aggressive owners are openly flaunting basic industry rules.

ABC agents may not be your favorite visitor, but by laying a level foundation for enforcement of basic liquor laws, we believe that having competent law enforcement agents is much better than a lawless business environment.

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