Authority of Class A Counties

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Tennessee Code Annotated § 57-5-105 sets out the requirements an applicant must meet in order to obtain a beer permit from a Class A county.  This statute also sets out the limited power of a Class A county to impose restrictions on the issuance of permits.  The Tennessee Supreme Court has summarized the lack of authority of Class A counties to impose any additional conditions or restrictions as follows:

A county beer board must issue a license to anyone who meets the requirements laid out in this section, and they may not prescribe conditions for the issuance of a permit in addition to those set out in the statute.  Howard v. Willocks, 525 S.W.2d 132 (Tenn. 1975).

Class A counties must look exclusively to the statutes and the case law explaining the statutes to determine the limits of their authority to regulate the issuance and revocation of permits to sell beer.  Attorney General Opinion U91-51 (4/9/91).  Class A counties have no authority to set any requirements in addition to those contained in the statutes.  For example, the Attorney General has opined that a Class A county has no authority to prohibit the sale of cold beer at convenience stores and grocery stores. Attorney General Opinion 05-024 (3/14/05).

Class A counties are authorized to review applications for beer licenses and must grant any application which meets the statutory requirements.  T.C.A. § 57-5-105(e).  The statutes allow county legislative bodies to adopt resolutions establishing "distance rules" which prohibit the issuance of a permit for an establishment to sell beer within 2,000 feet of schools, churches or other places of public gathering, or prohibit the sale of beer within 300 feet of residential dwellings in accordance with the guidelines outlined in the statute.  Class A counties also may refuse to issue a beer permit if the issuance would interfere with public health, safety, and morals.  T.C.A. § 57-5-105(b)(1).