• Brad Keating

Tennessee Liquor Law: Avoid Problems in The State

The Tennessee alcohol laws apply to both visitors and residents. In most cases, alcohol laws vary from state to state. Even within the state of Tennessee, you are going to find many dry counties. If you are unaware of the state's laws regarding alcohol sales, you can get in trouble with police officials.

What Is The Minimum Age That One Can Buy Alcoholic Beverages?

What Is The Minimum Age That One Can Buy Alcoholic Beverages?

In many states, parents are permitted to purchase alcohol for their kids to drink in their own homes for educational and cultural reasons. These states allow the consumption and purchase of alcohol for medical, religious, and many other reasons. That is not the case with the Tennessee legislature, and it is strictly forbidden.

Anyone under the age of 21 may not drink wine for religious reasons, making wine with Sedar and communion wine illegal by Tennessee law. The Tennessee Legislature has a zero-tolerance policy for people under 21 who want to drink alcohol. There seems to be little to no tolerance for religious freedom even if the United States Constitution granted it.

Many young people are looking for part-time jobs, and the hospitality industry offers quite a few of them. These students find a high income within the industry. Some of these positions involve alcohol, and they might encounter youths who want to know about the required drinking ages.

They might wonder what the age for purchasing from liquor stores for off-site consumption is? Or what age groups can be served other alcoholic beverages at a restaurant? These are all typical questions that an average responsible young adult would ask to keep themselves on the right side of the alcohol laws when out and about in Tennessee.

The Tennessee alcohol laws permit adults of 18 years and older to be servers at venues that sell alcohol for on-site consumption. Adults of the same age are allowed to be bartenders and are also permitted to work at a retail food store that sells alcoholic beverages for consumption off-premise. If you use a false ID to buy alcohol, you can expect to get into trouble with federal law. It is illegal for those under the age of 21 to drive if they have a blood alcohol concentration over 0.02%.


Retail Food Stores and Liquor Stores


Convenience stores, grocery stores, and gas stations are permitted to sell beer. These grocery stores are allowed to do so every day of the week between 8:00 am to 11 pm. Grocery and convenience stores are also entitled to sell wine, except on Sundays.


Retail package stores or liquor stores can sell wine, distilled spirits, alcoholic beverages, and beer. Spirits included in the category are tequila, rum, bourbon, gin, scotch, vodka, and more. These liquor stores and retail package stores may sell alcohol Monday through to Saturday between 8:00 am and 11 pm. By law, they need to close on Sunday and may not sell any alcohol. Otherwise, they can face a significant fine or even risk losing the liquor business.


Bars and restaurants are allowed to serve liquor, and alcoholic beverages from 8:00 am to 3:00 am. These venues can sell liquor from Monday to Saturday, and they may also trade on Sunday, but only between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm.


Alcohol sales on the 1st of January, Thanksgiving Day, the Fourth of July, and Christmas Day are entirely against the Tennessee alcohol laws. That means that, by default, all municipalities and counties in the state are dry. New regulations would need to be passed to permit the sale of alcohol on those particular days.

Dry Counties


In Tennessee, 14 counties are dry. These counties prohibit sales of alcoholic beverages from grocery stores, liquor stores, or retail package stores. They are known as dry counties, and you can find out which ones they are by checking out the list below.

  • Crocket

  • Fentress

  • Hancock

  • Houston

  • Johnson

  • Macon Lake

  • McNairy

  • Meigs

  • Morgan

  • Pickett

  • Rhea

  • Union Stewart


The Tennessee alcohol laws prohibit selling wine and other alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 21. A retail package store server or clerk guilty of this could face driving license suspension for up to a year and a 100-hour community service.

In addition to this, you are going to receive a permanent criminal record. There is a one-year probation period to monitor you to see if you commit a similar offense in a retail food store. For a grocery store owner, the punishments and sanctions are much more significant. Another one of the alcohol laws to keep in mind is that you should not sell an alcoholic beverage to anyone visibly under the influence.

Buying Alcohol From Grocery Stores

Any establishment, restaurant, grocery store, or retail package store that sells liquor, wine, and beer to anyone under the age of 21 violates the Tennessee alcohol laws. It is also an offense for them to try and buy alcohol and must be reported by retail food stores and liquor stores that sell alcoholic beverages.


In limited circumstances, adults who are 18, 19, or 20 and use a false ID to purchase liquor from grocery stores, liquor stores, wine orders, or a retail package store could receive a fine ranging from $50 to $200. The judge who handles the case may suspend their license for up to a year. They might also face time in prison. Tennessee punishes anyone under 21 who has illegally purchased an alcoholic beverage from liquor stores, retail package stores, grocery stores, wine sales, or other retail sales.


Tennessee alcohol laws do this by suspending the license of the offender. Suspension of the driving permit lasts for one year or until age 17, whichever is the longest. If it is the individual's second offense, the rest is extended to two years or until the offender turns 18.

Purchasing liquor, spirits, wine, or beer for any person under the age of 21 is illegal in the state of Tennessee. The state's punishment for a first-time offense is a fine of up to $500 and community service of 100 hours. It is also illegal to allow anyone under 21 to drink anything with alcoholic content on your property.


Driving and Alcohol

Driving under the influence (DUI) is illegal in the state of Tennessee. Whether you have used drugs or alcohol, either one is classified as unlawful under the laws of Tennessee.


Driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.08% violates the Tennessee alcohol laws. Keep in mind for drivers under the age of 21, the blood concentration levels need to be 0.02% or below to pass breathalyzer tests.


The specific punishment is going to depend on the severity of the case, the circumstances involved, and of course, the Tennessee judge.

First DUI


Tennessee alcohol laws are stringent, and your first offense could land you in a lot of trouble. That is what could happen on your first DUI that you receive in the state of Tennessee.

  • You could be jailed anywhere from 48 hours to a week.

  • If your BAC is 0.20% or higher, you could be in jail for at least seven days in a row.

  • Participation in a drug and alcohol treatment program.

  • Compensation for anyone who is suffering loss or personal injury for your negligence.

  • Suspension of your license for one year.

  • The installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) after your license has been reinstated.

Second DUI


  • You could spend up to 45 days to 11 months in jail.

  • A fine between $600 to $3,500 could be imposed on you.

  • There is going to be a revocation of your license for two years. There is the option of license with hardship restrictions available.

  • You must join a drug and alcohol treatment program.

  • Anyone who has suffered personal injury or loss from the incident needs to be compensated by you.

  • Your vehicle is going to be subject to forfeiture or seizure at the discretion of the judge.

  • Fitment of an IID on the vehicle at the expense of the offender

  • If you received two DUI's in five years, an IID would be required for six months after the license has been reinstated. The installation is at the expense of the offender.

Third DUI


  • You could spend 120 days to 11 months in prison.

  • The offender must pay a fine between $1,100 and $10,000

  • Your license is going to be revocated for six years

  • Participation in a drug and alcohol treatment program is essential

  • The IID installed on the vehicle at the offender's expense

  • If you have received two DUI's in five years, you need to use an IID for six months.

Fourth DUI

When you get your fourth DUI, things start to become a problem. It is now a crime and a class E felony.

  • Jail time for up to one year or a minimum of 150 days in a row

  • A fine of $3,000 to $15,000 is payable by the offender

  • The licenses of the offender are going to be revocated for eight years

  • It is a requirement that the offender participation in a drug and alcohol treatment program

  • The vehicle is subject to forfeiture or seizure at the discretion of the courts.

  • Ignition interlock devices must be installed on the car and are going to be the expense of the offender.

Other DUI Violations

When a DUI driver causes serious injury to another individual, this is known as vehicular assault. It is a criminal act, and the offender can find themselves in prison for two to 12 years. It is a standard procedure that their license can be suspended for up to five years. The length of the revocation depends on prior offenses and sanctions placed on the person. There is no availability of using a driving license with restrictions. The court cost and fines must be paid by the offender as soon as the proceedings have concluded.

When passengers under the age of 18 and a DUI incident involving liquor occurs, that is classified as child endangerment. It is a criminal act and punishable by federal law. If the child suffers serious injuries, you could spend up to 12 years in prison. In the case that the child passes away, the sentence could be extended to 30 years. The state permanently revokes the license of the offender.

Vehicular homicide occurs when the death of another is caused by a person driving under the influence. It is a criminal act of a serious nature. The driver's license is going to be taken away for up to 10 years with no chance of using a request with hardships restrictions.

The Rights of a Driver in the State of Tennesee

A United States constitutional right has been enacted to permit all drivers to decline a chemical blood alcohol test. However, the state of Tennessee generally punishes those who use this right.


If it's your first time using this driver right, there is a one-year license revocation, and on a second occasion, the suspension period is going to be two years.


There are, however, no legal penalties if you do not submit a field sobriety test. These tests are often highly inaccurate, and even about 30% of entirely sober individuals end up failing the test. That means that one in three people who had a zero BAC was unable to pass the test.


A firm recommendation from lawyers is that drivers never take a field sobriety test. It is suggested to refuse politely and to do so as many times as you deem necessary.


In some states, officials falsely insist that the federal law requires it, but this is not true, as no law does. They might tempt you with proving your innocence by taking the test. The problem with this is that officers don't consider the high failure rate of these tests.


More importantly, the state needs to prove guilt, as the driver does not need to prove their innocence. While an investigation is taking place, police can legally lie. So, don't fall prey to the system if you are innocent.


Important Things to Remember


Many municipalities and counties prohibit passengers from drinking while in a motor vehicle, but the state of Tennessee alcohol laws give passengers permission to do so.


There are multiple incidents and expenses that come with driving under the influence. Everything from bail, lawyer's fees, towing expenses, courts cost, license reinstatement fees, and many others are included in the total expenditure. The amount can very quickly reach thousands of dollars, which can be detrimental to a person's well-being.


Don't drink and drive. That is a good rule of thumb. It is time to be responsible and alert of all people traveling on the roads of Tennessee and the rest of the nation.

Boating and Alcohol

Boating and Alcohol


The state of Tennessee's alcohol laws states that it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you have a BAC of 0.08% and it is proven that you are indeed under the influence, you are going to acquire your first BUI.

First BUI

  • You maybe receive a fine of up to $2.500

  • Jail time up to 11 months and 29 days

  • A boating license could be suspended for one to 10 years.

Second BUI

  • A fine of up to $250 is going to be issued to you.

  • You could spend up to 11 months in a federal prison

  • Suspension of your boating license for one to 10 years

Third BUI

  • A $5,000 fine

  • Up to 11 months and 29 days in Jail

  • License suspension from one to 10 years

Other Information


Don't forget to use your rights to decline the submission of BAC test results if you are innocent. The same goes for any additional boating license suspension that they might try to impose on you.


Remember that police are going to take blood for testing from any boat operator who has had an accident that results in death or severe injury.


Getting Good Advice About the State of Tennessee Drink Laws


Law is often a complex subject. That is why lawyers spend decades learning and understanding it. If you are in any of the situations mentioned in this article, remember that it is not a case that you can handle on your own.


Co-workers and friends might offer opinions and advice, giving you the confidence to handle the case yourself. Neighbors might tell you about their experience and how they got away with a lenient punishment. Please remember every case is different, and there is no chance that what happened to friends and family might happen to you.


Be sure to look up a knowledgeable lawyer about these cases and who can help you make sense of your conviction. Only a lawyer is going to have the expert knowledge required to assist you in an alcohol law case. Make sure you get your advice from an expert in Tennessee's alcohol law in the form of a lawyer with a state license. Free lawyer referrals can be found at the state bar for anyone looking for assistance.


For more information regarding Tennessee's laws including if weed is legal or help from a Nashville personal injury law office, contact The Keating Firm.