Nashville International Airport has adopted the uncommon policy of allowing travelers to carry beer and alcoholic drinks throughout the secure area of the airport, instead of being restricted to designated bar areas.
The change is the result of new blanket liquor and beer permits acquired by the Airport Authority. Under the old policy, restaurants had to get their own alcohol permits. The only restrictions are that the drinks must stay in the secure area of the airport and travelers can't take drinks onto planes.
Local brewery Yazoo became the first establishment to take advantage of the new policy when it opened a beer kiosk last year. The kiosk features a sign alerting customers that they can take cups of beer to their gate to wait for their flights.
The new policy was welcome news to Trixie Lebenzon, who visited Nashville on business this week with her company, Music Contact International. Lebenzon, who is from Vermont, said she had been wanting to try local Nashville breweries, but hadn't had time.
As a frequent traveler, Lebenzon said she was surprised by the new policy that allowed her to carry the Yazoo Hefeweizen she purchased to the B concourse where she waited for her connecting flight into New York.
"This is cool," Lebenzon said. "If your flight is delayed or you have down time, you can sit and have a beer at your gate and not have to worry about being stuck at a bar."
The Airport Authority sought blanket permits in order to provide convenience to travelers like Lebenzon, spokeswoman Shannon Sumrall said. The authority had its beer permit approved by the Metro Beer Board last September and the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission approved the new blanket alcohol permit in January.
But, the airport's concessions contractors still had to acquire their own permits under the new blanket policy.
Then on Wednesday, airport concessionaire HMSHost had its new permit approved by the Metro Beer Board under the new blanket permitting system. The last hurdle is for the airport's other primary concessions contractor Delaware North to have its beer permit approved, which could happen in June. Both concession companies already have had their new liquor permits under the new policy approved by the state.
Sumrall said the authority did not feel like the new policy creates security concerns. She said airport police actually had to pay closer attention under the old policy, because they had to stop travelers from carrying their drinks outside bar areas.
Sumrall acknowledged the new policy is uncommon, though she said the authority did not know how many other airports allow travelers to carry their drinks outside of bars, and industry statistics were not available on how many airports allow drinking outside bars.
"This was just about providing convenience to our travelers," Sumrall said. "Now if they want to take their drink into the shops, or another restaurant, or walk and go sit at their gate they can."
Yazoo Brewery co-owner Linus Hall said the kiosk had exceeded his expectations. Hall applauded the airport for its recent overhauls, which have brought more of a local feel. In addition to the Yazoo kiosk, the airport boasts local offerings such as Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Swett's BBQ, Whitt's BBQ, Neely's BBQ, Blue Coast Burrito and Provence.
"I'd always thought it was kind of a shame when you got off your plane, you wouldn't know if you're in Nashville or Cleveland," Hall said. "Now when you're leaving and having a great time, you can extend that vacation a bit longer. Or, if if you're returning, you get that sense you're home in Nashville."
Metro Beer Board Executive Director Jackie Eslick said the new policy does not raise any enforcement concerns. She said the Beer Board could track which establishment is responsible for any underage drinking that is discovered because restaurants will have their logos printed on the plastic to-go cups.
"If any underage drinking is found, we'll know where it came from because their name will be on the cups," Eslick said.