If you are new to Tennessee (or just turned 21), you may have questions regarding the state's rather prohibitive and complicated alcohol laws. The following information is not a thorough examination of Tennessee's alcohol laws, nor should it be taken as legal advice.
It is, however, an easy-to-understand overview of the laws that regulate alcohol purchase and consumption in the state of Tennessee. These laws were accurate at the time of this writing but are subject to change.
Here are a few definitions you may need to know before we get started:
- ABV stands for Alcohol By Volume and is the percentage of alcohol that a beverage contains.
- “Grocery stores” is the term used in this article to mean “food retail stores” defined by the state of Tennessee as stores with at least 20 percent of its sales from food and are at least 1,200 square feet. This excludes most convenience stores and gas stations.
- BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Concentration and is used to determine levels of intoxication.
- The legal drinking age in Tennessee is 21. In other words, you must be 21 years or older to legally purchase or consume any alcoholic beverage in the state.
- In Tennessee, individuals over age 21 operating a personal vehicle are considered legally drunk and unable to drive when your blood alcohol concentration is .08%. The limit is just .04% for commercial vehicles.
- First time DUI offenders are required to spend at least 48 hours in jail upon arrest. Multi-time offenders receive stiffer penalties.
- If you refuse to take a BAC test, you will have your license revoked for one year in addition to fees and penalties.
- As of July 1, 2014, liquor stores are allowed to sell beer (of any ABV), ice, mixers, and other products related to alcoholic beverages.
- As of July 2016, licensed grocery stores were allowed to sell beer under 6.25% ABV, malt beverages, and wine. On January 1, 2017, this law was amended and now, up to 8% ABV beer can be sold anywhere and time that beer is sold.
- Liquor can only be purchased in a liquor store or by the drink in a bar or restaurant.
- As of January 1, 2017, you can purchase high-gravity/high alcohol content beer (between 6.25% and 10.1% ABV) at liquor stores and taprooms in the state of Tennessee.
Hours of Availability
- Wine and liquor may be purchased at liquor and grocery stores Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Liquor stores are closed on Sundays and wine sales in grocery stores are prohibited on Sundays.
- Wine and liquor sales are also prohibited on New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
- Beer may be purchased at grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations on Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. until midnight, and on Sunday from noon until midnight.
- All alcoholic beverages sold by the drink in bars and restaurants are legally available on Monday-Saturday from 8 a.m. until 3 a.m.; on Sunday from 10 a.m. until 3 a.m.
Updated by Holly Whitfield