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Keeping your liquor license safe

Owning a bar is not like what you may see on TV sitcoms. In these shows, bar owners stand idly chatting with patrons, wiping the counter and paying little attention to what is happening in the room. If you are interested in owning your own bar, you probably have experience in the industry and can attest that this portrayal is rarely accurate.

While it is likely that you will have patrons who become friends and your establishment may become a well-loved and fun place to hang out, in reality, you have a lot of responsibility. Not only do you have a business to make profitable, but you are also responsible for the safety of your patrons and the integrity of your business. Neglecting this responsibility can cost you your license.

Your staff is key to your success

The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission and similar agencies across the country carefully monitor establishments that sell alcohol. If you haven't already, you will have many hoops to jump through to obtain your liquor license. From the time you receive it and open for business, it will be a primary concern of yours to keep your license.

One of the most common ways bar owners place their licenses at risk is through their employees. Your servers must be 21 to serve liquor, and they must receive certification from the TABC. In many states, servers must complete a training program. Workers who are not properly certified and trained may be unaware of the obligations a liquor license places on them to adequately monitor the clientele. Without training, your staff may make costly mistakes, including:

  • Overserving customers because they don't recognize the signs of intoxication
  • Allowing patrons to carry their drinks into restricted areas, such as parking lots or stairways
  • Serving minors because they don't know how to spot a fake ID
  • Selling alcohol outside the permitted times specified on your liquor license

Additionally, you will want your staff to know how to keep your customers orderly and in control. Fights, illegal activity, public drunkenness and other alarming behavior may bring police to your establishment, which will alert the TABC. Neighboring residents and businesses may also complain to the TABC if your business disturbs the peace or creates an unsafe environment.

There is always the possibility that your license will hang in the balance, either for some oversight by you or for an unwarranted complaint. After going through the effort of creating an inviting place and securing a license to serve adult beverages, you owe it to yourself to obtain sound legal advice when facing a hearing before the liquor board.

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Rob McGuire Law
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Nashville, TN 37203

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