Legislature OKs two 23-hour bars; bill authorizing Sunday booze sales dies quietly

The House has given final approval to legislation that would let two Nashville bars serve drinks 23 hours per day, an exception to general state law that prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages between the hours of 3 a.m. and 8 a.m.

In contrast, a more ambitious change in state liquor laws – legalizing sale of wine and spirts on Sundays statewide – has died quietly in House and Senate committees.

Under the all-night bar bill (HB1289), The Avenue Diner in Nashville’s Broadway entertainment district and the Scoreboard Bar & Grill in the Pennington Bend area of Nashville could serve all day except for one hour – between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.

Final approval came Friday when the House concurred with a Senate amendment to the bill that lets distilleries operate liquor-by-the-drink bars. Current state law says the manufacturers of alcoholic beverages cannot hold an interest in a liquor-by-the-drink establishment.

The bill passed the House 65-17 initially; the Senate approved 20-5 after adding the amendment. The House Friday concurred with the amendment 60-9, sending the bill to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

The Sunday-sales measure (SB923) pushed by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, got considerable attention when introduced, but was never brought up for a vote.

Ketron says the effort will be renewed next year and perhaps have a better chance of success. There were contentions that the bill is contrary to an agreement for no major changes in statewide liquor laws for two years after enactment of the law authorizing sale of wine in grocery stores.

Ketron said he understood that to mean two years after passage of the law in 2015 while others say that meant two years after the law took effect in 2016. Accepting the 2016 side of the argument, Ketron says the two years will have passed in 2018, hopefully increasing prospects for approval then.

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