Bill Could Eliminate ‘Antiquated' Tennessee Bar Food Law

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Bill Could Eliminate ‘Antiquated' Tennessee Bar Food Law

CREATED Apr 3, 2014

by Todd Walker

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A new bill working its way through the Tennessee Legislature could change the way bars do business.

It is not uncommon to get the munchies when at a honky tonk downtown or even your local watering hole. Your bartenders are counting on it, not just for their bottom line but to keep them out of trouble with the state.

Bars all over Tennessee are required to serve food, at least 15 percent of their total sales, but they're hoping for not much longer.

Under state code, there is no such thing as a bar - they're all restaurants.

A new bill working its way through the legislature may change that and would do away with the food sales requirements altogether.

Bar workers are applauding the move.

Malachi Taylor is a manager at Canvas Lounge in Midtown. He said he constantly has to track whether food sales are high enough.

"You can sell food all day but if they're not hungry they're not going to eat plain and simple," he said. "It's basically hoping you're going to make that number."

State Rep. Mike Turner, (D) Nashville, is the sponsor of the bill.

"I think it's a burden on (the bars) to try and do that and it's also a burden on the state of Tennessee to keep up with all of that."

Barrett Hobbs is the chairman of the Downtown District Merchants Association and also owns several downtown bars.

He called the current law "antiquated" and said it was time for a change.

"We can serve steaks all day long in a honky tonk but we can't force people to buy it," Hobbs said. "So if they're eating in one of our great steak houses they're coming to us for Tennessee Jack Daniels whiskey and country music."

Turner said he hasn't heard any opposition to the proposal. He hopes to have it ready for the governor's desk by next week.

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