Legislature approves alcohol sales at MTSU, TSU campus sports events

The legislature has given final approval to a bill that will allow Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and Tennessee State University in Nashville to sell alcoholic beverages at campus sports events. The Nashville Post reports the move comes after the House earlier spurned a bill that would have applied only to MTSU — and the revised version, adding TSU, passed by the bare minimum 50 votes needed.

The newly-worded amendment would allow beer, wine and liquor sales to patrons 21 and over at “any facility that is designed and used for school-sanctioned public sporting events” at MTSU and TSU, meaning alcohol sales do not necessarily have to be limited to certain sports. Proponents of the legislation have said it would cut down on binge drinking at pre-game tailgates and would also bring in additional revenue for the schools. Opponents worry it would make it even easier for underage students to get drunk at games, even though sneaking in flasks is a common tactic for students.

Debate was slightly heated in the House, as Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) complained about the run-around and said that the amendments should have gone through the committee system. (Hill, notably, skipped the committee system last week to get a budget amendment through that stripped $250,000 that had been earmarked for Memphis.) And Rep. Jason Zachary (R-Knoxville) said alcohol sales at football games weren’t needed because the University of Tennessee at Knoxville has “a great sporting atmosphere” without booze at games, apparently forgetting the masses of fans who illegally drink on campus each Saturday prior to games.

However, the legislation squeaked by on the narrowest of margins, with 51 ayes. Rep. Charles Sargent (R-Franklin) then changed his vote to a nay, making the final vote 50 to 38. (The key Senate vote was 25-4.)

Final approval came late Tuesday, after the Post article was penned, with Senate concurrence on a House amendment – sending the bill (SB2111, as amended) to the governor. The amendment, as the article notes, fixed an error in earlier-approved legislation allowing sale of alcohol on Sundays.

Rep. Tim Wirgau (R-Buchanan).. had passed an amendment on that bill to prevent any sales of wine or liquor on Christmas Day, Easter or Thanksgiving. However, due to the wording of the amendment, the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission deemed that liquor stores could not be open on those three holidays but that grocery stores could sell wine on those days. The new amendment clarifies that grocery stores are also excluded from selling on the three holidays. Beer sales are not affected.

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