By Quint Qualls / The Tennessean
Restauranteurs are concerned about the potential impact on their
businesses after the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission announced
it will issue penalties to those that infuse fruit or herbs into
It wouldn't affect cocktails mixed and served
immediately, like sangria or margaritas, said Keith Bell, Tennessee
Alcoholic Beverage Commission director. But beginning July 1, any
establishment found infusing fruit or herbs into alcohol for an extended
period of time will be violating the commission's new interpretation of
a 2006 state law.
The restaurant industry disagrees with the
commission's interpretation of the law. Matt Scanlan, a lawyer
representing the Tennessee Hospitality Association, also said he's
unclear why liquor infusion in restaurants should be banned. Bell cited
health and welfare concerns.
"We're not familiar with any safety
concerns at the vast majority of restaurants that infuse alcohol, and
we're curious to hear about them," Scanlan said.
For instance, the
practice of pouring large amounts of vodka over fruit in advance and
allowing the flavors to meld would be illegal, Scanlan confirmed.
Rayburn, owner of Nashville restaurants Sunset Grill, Midtown Cafe and
Cabana, said the law threatens many restaurants around the city that
offer a menu of creative drinks.
"A great deal of craft cocktails
are premade," Rayburn said. "This law has the potential to disrupt a lot
of craft bar styles, ranging from Red Lobster to the Catbird Seat, and
that's a fact."
Representatives from the restaurant industry will
meet with the commission early next week in an effort to defend the
current practice of infused alcohol, Scanlan said.