By MIKE WEST
Passage of the liquor referendum in Tuesday’s (Nov. 6) election caught Woodbury officials off guard.
Now they are scrambling to get caught up with the provisions governing package liquor sales in Tennessee.
"This is uncharted water for us," said Mayor Harold Patrick. "I have contacted MTAS to forward a list of things to do."
MTAS is short for Municipal Technical Advisory Service, an agency of The University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service, MTAS provides technical assistance to cities and towns across the state.
"I do know there are several things we have to do and now that it's passed we will pursue them," Patrick said.
The liquor referendum passed 407 to 327 in Woodbury only. A similar county-wide sales tax referendum failed 3,122 to 1,438.
In Tennessee, package stores are governed by the policies of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which requires applicants to go through a lengthy licensing process.
In addition to a $850 annual fee and a $300 application fee, retail liquor store owners must fill out several forms and questionnaires in addition to obtaining a state charter and providing a list of officers/owners of the corporation all before earning a permit.
There will be a significant time period before Woodbury's first liquor store will open.
"I wouldn't think it would be overnight," said Ginna Winfree, staff attorney for the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
In fact, the process cannot begin under after the election has been certified, Winfree said.
Then it will be up to Woodbury to establish the process governing retail liquor stores, including the number of stores allowed, she said.
The permitting process is handled differently by various towns and cities in Tennessee, but the bottom line is Tennessee ABC approval.
In Murfreesboro, a license for a retail liquor package store must be first obtained from the ABC, but before an application can be submitted, the applicant must be approved by City Council.
A $100 fee must be submitted along with an application. Additionally, the business must be posted as applying for a liquor license (new location or new owner). The applicant must pay to advertise in the local paper they have applied for a liquor license and when the public hearing will be to consider the application. The city of Murfreesboro will provide the information for the advertisement.
In Tullahoma, applicants must also go through the City Board of Alderman after a certificate of compliance is issued and a study is completed.
As for the state, the laws governing liquor sales are lengthy and very specific and govern everything from pricing (no wholesale prices) to decorating inside the stores (Decorating with crepe paper, "Corabuff" matting, or similar material as a background or setting for advertising material only is permitted but such decoration is limited to a 20-square-foot area, per wholesaler) is well defined.
Applicants must go through as many as 15 steps before they can receive a license.