Bill could ban cold beer sales in Tennessee

Published 10:29 am Thursday, February 15, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

A bill working its way through the Tennessee legislature could put a chill on cold beer sales in the state. According to its summary on the state website, SB 2636 “prohibits a beer permittee from selling at retail refrigerated or cold beer.” It passed two votes in the Senate and was referred to a committee.
The bill was introduced on Jan. 31 by Sen. Paul Rose and Rep. Ron Gant, who represent parts of West Tennessee near the Memphis area.
The bill titled the Tennessee Prevention of Drunk Driving Acts is sponsored by Rep. Ron Gant of Piperton and Sen. Paul Rose of Covington.
When asked about the impetus for the bill, Rose noted “this is brought to me by a House sponsor that suffered an extremely tragic accident.”
In 2022, Gant was injured in a two-car crash in Hardeman County when a vehicle crossed the middle line and struck his vehicle head-on, killing the driver. Gant was transported by helicopter to a Memphis hospital where he underwent multiple surgeries and now walks with the aid of a cane.
Rose acknowledged the proposal will likely face heavy pushback from convenience stores, restaurants, bars and other venues
“There’s going to be a lot of discussion on this,” he said. “To my knowledge, I haven’t had anyone come in and say, we notice you’re carrying this. They’ll circle back.”
Gant said the goal with regard to requiring non-refrigerated alcohol sales retail outlets is to “hit at the source” behind many drunk driving fatalities.
“Right now we make it so easy for alcohol to be available, not only to adults but also to minors,” he said. “The intent here is to curb the access to cold refrigerated alcohol at convenience stores and retail establishments.”
Gant said it’s clear there’s a problem and points to what he said is evidence anyone can see — discarded beer bottles and cans on roads.
“A lot of times, in the afternoon especially, people get off of work, they’ve had a long, hard day, they want a beer,” Gant noted. “Many people go in and get a six-pack or a 12-pack and begin to drink it on their way home.”
Tennessee’s laws prohibit drinking alcohol while at the wheel. But lawmakers have long rejected efforts to extend open container laws to people traveling in vehicles.
In many cases, Grant said, commuters are driving 25 to 50 miles to or from work.
“The first question you have to ask is if we know we can’t drink and drive and we know that’s the law in Tennessee. And if a driver cannot have an open container in the car, why does it have to be cold? Why can’t you sell it lukewarm to discourage drivers from getting that cold beer and drinking it on the way home?”
The legislation remains a work in progress and is seen as a hard lift. Gant was meeting Tuesday afternoon with a number of groups concerned about the proposal, details of which have yet to be filed.
Several lawmakers scoffed when reporters asked them about the prospect of banning cold beer. The Tennessee Department of Transportation says one out of three fatal crashes involves a DUI. Gant said this would serve as a deterrent for people who are considering cracking open a beer behind the wheel.
He also said it might not fix the problem completely but it makes the alcohol less readily available.
“We see the evidence in many accidents where alcohol is found in the car, beer cans, and beer bottles. And we see it on the side of the road in many of our roads across the state and every county, you see the many beer bottles, beer cans that litter our highways,” he said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox