Loophole could keep guns out of Nashville restaurants

Senate overrides Bredesen veto, but former Metro Councilman pushing for Nashville to take advantage of loophole

The State Senate has joined the State House in voting to override Gov. Phil Bredesen's veto of the "guns in restaurants" bill today, and it will now become state law.

Despite that fact, Nashville attorney Adam Dread believes he has found a loophole that can keep guns out of Nashville bars and restaurants.

Dread, a former Metro Council member, former member of Metro's Beer Board and partner in the law firm of Durham & Dread, is contacting members of the Metro Council and encouraging them to take advantage of the loophole as quickly as possible.

Tennessee law, because of the legislative override of Bredesen's veto, will now permit those who have handgun permits to carry firearms into establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. But the new act does not change or alter laws that govern Beer Boards at the local level.

Dread is pointing to Tennessee Codes Annotated section 57-5-06(a), which defines the licensing powers of cities, towns, and Class B counties, those with metropolitan governments. (The emphasis below is ours.)

ll. incorporated cities, towns and Class B counties in the state of Tennessee are authorized to pass proper ordinances governing the issuance and revocation or suspension of licenses for the storage, sale, manufacture and/or distribution of beer within the corporate limits of the cities and towns and within the general services districts of Class B counties outside the limits of any smaller cities as defined in § 7-1-101(8) and to provide a board of persons before whom such application shall be made, but the power of such cities, towns and Class B counties to issue licenses shall in no event be greater than the power herein granted to counties, but cities, towns and Class B counties may impose additional restrictions, fixing zones and territories and provide hours of opening and closing and such other rules and regulations as will promote public health, morals and safety as they may by ordinance provide. The ordinance power granted to a municipality by this subsection does not permit a municipality to establish residency requirements for its applicants. The ordinance power granted to a municipality by this section does not permit a municipality to impose training or certification restrictions or requirements on employees of a permittee if those employees possess a server permit issued by the alcoholic beverage commission pursuant to chapter 3, part 7 of this title.

What that means, according to Dread, is that Metro Nashville, and for that matter any other city, town, or class B county, can pass an ordinance that would instruct its Beer Board not to grant licenses to establishments that serve beer and allow guns. They could not, however, pass an ordinance that would prohibit establishments that only serve wine and/or liquor because those entities are regulated by the state.

Dread, who says he is a gun owner, a pro-Second Amendment Republican and former restaurateur, told NashvillePost.com, "I can't think of anything more dangerous for the citizens of Nashville, our police officers, or tourism, than guns in bars. Guns and alcohol don't mix, period."

"I'm not worried about the licensed gun owner," Dread added. "I'm worried about the drunk idiot next to him that tries to take his gun. In a tourism-based economy, the last thing you want is people to think is that everyone in Nashville is walking around with a gun. Don't think that liability insurance for restaurants isn't going to go through the roof, and they are not going to eat that cost alone."

For his part, Nashville attorney Will Cheek, who leads the alcoholic beverage practice group for Bone McAllester Norton and provides licensing and regulatory compliance advice to restaurants, hotels, bars and clubs, thinks that Dread is onto something.

"It is a great idea," Cheek told NashvillePost.com. "I am almost positive this would survive a judicial test."

He added that he also believed that it would be likely that legislators would try to come back next year and close the loophole.

Prominent Nashville restaurateur Randy Rayburn told NashvillePost.com this morning that he has already signed on to help encourage the Metro Council to prohibit guns in restaurants that serve beer.

"This is not only an issue of public safety," Rayburn said, "but has negative consequences for our tourism industry statewide and that is why we think that pursuing this action is appropriate."

Metro Councilman Charlie Tygard seems to be on board as well. He has informed NashvillePost.com that "the council office is researching the issue and I have instructed them to draft the appropriate legislation."

L by TN1796