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Revocation, Suspension, and Imposition of Civil Penalties

The beer board or county legislative body which issued a beer permit (hereinafter referred to as the “board”) is authorized to suspend or revoke the permit as provided in T.C.A. § 57-5-108. Suspension, revocation, or imposition of a civil penalty may be made for violation of any provision of the beer laws set out in Title 57, Chapter 5, of the Tennessee Code Annotated, or whenever it satisfactorily appears that the licensed premises are being maintained and operated in a manner which is detrimental to the public health, safety or morals. T.C.A. § 57-5-108(c). Special rules apply to suspensions, revocations, and imposition of civil penalties for sales of beer to minors for vendors who have been certified as responsible vendors under the ABC’s responsible vendor certification program.

The board may, at the time it imposes suspension or revocation, offer the permit holder the alternative of paying a civil penalty not exceeding $2,500 for each offense involving sales to minors, or $1,000 for any other offense. However, if the permit holder is a certified responsible vendor and both the permit holder and the clerk are in compliance with T.C.A. § 57-5-606, the board may not revoke or suspend a permit for an illegal sale of beer to a minor, but may instead impose a civil penalty of $1,000 for each offense of selling beer to a minor. T.C.A. § 57-5-108(a)(2).

If a civil penalty is offered as an alternative to suspension or revocation, the permit holder must be given seven days within which to pay the penalty before the suspension or revocation can be imposed. If the civil penalty is paid within that time, the suspension or revocation is deemed withdrawn. T.C.A. § 57-5-108(a)(2)(G) The beer board is authorized to accept at any time the payment of a civil penalty, not exceeding the stated amounts, from a permit holder charged with a violation, and the payment will be deemed an admission of the violation and no other penalty can be imposed. T.C.A. § 57-5-108(a)(3).

A permit cannot be revoked on the grounds that beer was sold to a minor over the age of 18 years if the minor presented identification, false or otherwise, indicating the minor’s age to be 21 or over, and the minor reasonably appeared to have been of the age indicated in the identification and was unknown to the person making the sale. In this event, the permit can be suspended for a period not exceeding 10 days or a civil penalty of up to $1,500 may be imposed. T.C.A. § 57-5-108(b).

The county legislative body or the county beer board may, in its discretion, revoke or suspend the permit of any beer retailer within its jurisdiction who is found in possession of untaxed beer. The burden of proof is on the retailer to prove that the beer has been taxed. T.C.A. § 57-5-108(m). The beer board also may suspend or revoke a permit for failure to pay the annual privilege tax after the required notices have been sent. T.C.A. § 57-5-104(b)(3).

When a permit is revoked by the county beer board, a new permit for the sale of beer on the same premises shall not be issued for one year following the final effective date of the revocation. However, the board may, in its discretion, issue a new permit on the same premises before the expiration of the one year period if the individual applying for the permit is not the original holder of the permit or any family member who could inherit from such individual by intestate succession. T.C.A. § 57-5-108(k).

Permanent revocation of beer permits can only be imposed when the permit holder has at least two violations within a 12-month period. Revocation of beer permits applies only to the permit holder and only at that location; penalties cannot be applied to other beer permits held by the permittee at other locations. Revocations do not stay with the property when the property changes hands. Revocation at one location should not be the sole disqualifying factor when considering issuance of beer permits at different locations. T.C.A. § 57-5-108(a)(2).

Any decision concerning revocation, suspension or civil penalties must be based on the facts of the particular situation. There are very few situations which are exactly alike. The county beer board is authorized to revoke a beer permit for any of the reasons which would disqualify an applicant in the first instance. Each fact situation must be considered individually. The cases cited throughout the material show that a county must have a valid reason for the denial, revocation or suspension of a beer permit.