published Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Whiskey bill rolls over Rep. Richard Floyd in Tennessee House committee

NASHVILLE — A bill that among other things would allow Chattanooga to permit whiskey distilleries rolled through the House Finance Committee today over the objections of Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga.

“This bill has been cunningly prepared,” Floyd, a non-drinker, told the panel. “There’s a lot of no see ’ums. The devil’s in the details.”

Floyd charged the bill, which has statewide application, goes far beyond its original intent and would allow distilleries to locate in unincorporated areas of Hamilton and other counties as long as at least one jurisdiction has approved both liquor by the drink and retail package store sales.

Floyd also contended that it’s another “misconception” that counties can “opt out” of the would-be law’s provisions. He then attacked the measure, saying distilleries could sell whiskey on Sundays.

That’s the “one I’m most concerned with,” Floyd said. “I pray you will be.”

Whiskey distilleries will be able to sell their products “seven days a week, 12 to 7 p.m. on Sunday,” Floyd added, before asking colleagues “if you want to go back to your districts and explain why your distiller is selling seven days a week.”

He also said distilleries can be sited next door to churches and schools in any jurisdiction unless it already has distance requirements for the sale, storage or manufacture of beer.

Most unincorporated areas of counties have no existing distance requirements, Floyd said. Thus, there is no “real protection” for them, he added.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joe Carr, R-Lacassas, chose to ignore Floyd’s contentions and the bill quickly passed the Finance Committee on a voice vote.

Finance Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, said “we know what’s in the bill.”

Hamilton County and a number of other counties were deliberately excluded when Carr passed his original law in 2009 due to some lawmakers’ objections. Since then, Chattanooga Whiskey Co. has mounted an effort to allow it to manufacture it’s product in its home town. It’s now distilled in Indiana.

But the bill has been used to address any number of unresolved issues brought about by the 2009 law and has far wider application than just Hamilton County. The bill now goes to the House Calendar Committee. It’s been awaiting Senate floor action for weeks.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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