Knox commissioners look for new ways to prevent underage alcohol sales

4:27 PM, May 20, 2013   |    comments
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Some Knox County Commissioners hope to deter servers and sellers from providing alcohol to underage customers by requiring all employees who serve or sell beer to read and sign a document laying out the potential repercussions of selling to minors.

Commission Chairman Tony Norman also serves on the Knox County Beer Board and says underage sales are a chronic issue.

His proposal will go before commissioners during their monthly work session Monday.

Norman says he believes there are some employees who willfully violate the law and he wants them to understand the potential criminal penalties.

According to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, servers and sellers can face a fine and court costs for their role in an underage sale. If they are convicted of the offense, TABC says they can also be prohibited from working in a bar or selling alcohol for 10 years.

Knox County Law Director Bud Armstrong says those fined can amount to $2,500.

Bartenders are currently required to take a five-hour course once every five years to become certified to serve alcohol.

The TABC says punishments associated with underage sales are part of their curriculum. But employees of liquor stores and other places that sell beer do not have to under go the same training.

Commissioners also discussed making small changes to laws governing where beer can be sold.

Currently, the Metropolitan Planning Commission is responsible for overseeing where beer can be sold.

Commissioners proposed making the regulations laws under the county charter.

Currently beer can't be sold within 500 feet of a church, school, or other public gathering place. It also cannot be sold within 500 feet of a private residence. The proposal would alter the proximity to residential property to 300 feet.

Commission Brad Anders pointed out that moving the matter from zoning to the charter would make the rule so hard and fast that no variances would be permitted.

He says there could be good development that would be unnecessarily limited by the law.

The issue will be taken up again during Knox County's June meeting.

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