Over 118,724 Responsible Servers Trained


The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) governs the sale and distribution of liquor, wine and malt beverages containing over 5% alcohol by weight.

In Tennessee, any malt beverage 5% alcohol by weight or below falls under the jurisdiction of individual counties or cities. The exception to this rule is the ‘The Tennessee Responsible Vendor Act of 2006’ which falls under the responsibility of the TABC. See the full bill in Off-Premise - The Responsible Beer Vendor Act.

NOTICE:  The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission has enacted new rules effective June 8, 2010.  The cost of a TABC Server Permit is $20 effective JUNE 8, 2010.

Click here to download a copy of the rules.


Off-Premise - The Responsible Beer Vendor Act 

On Premise and Liquor by the Drink


On-Premise and Liquor by the Drink

The TABC has approved the TopShelf Responsible Beverage Service program to meet the education requirements to obtain a 5-year Server Permit issued by the Tennessee Alcoholic Commission.

Following are rules and regulations covered in our TopShelf classes. This shorter plain speak document should answer most questions.

Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission Rules and Regulations

Tennessee Alcohol Responsibility Act of 1995 and Server Permits

The Alcohol Server Responsibility Act of 1995 requires servers of alcohol to successfully complete an alcohol awareness class certified by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. This class must be a minimum of 5 hours instructional classroom time. Instructional time does not including breaks or testing.

The primary legislative purpose of the Alcohol Server and Responsibility Act of 1995 is to prevent intoxication-related deaths, injuries, and other damages through responsible serving practices and awareness.

The successful completion of a class (a score of at least 70% unless company requirements are higher) makes a server eligible for a (5) year permit issued by the TABC. Top Shelf RBS requires a score of at least 80% on the exam.

The TABC requires the trainer conducting the class to pay a $10.00 certification fee for each student.

If a student does not pass the exam, they are allowed 30 days in which they can re-take the exam without re-taking the class. If the exam is not re-taken within the 30-day period, they must re-take the class.

If it can be proven an individual has successfully completed a Commission certified program in another state within one (1) year from the date of application, then the Commission shall recognize such training. The server is responsible for paying the $10.00 certification fee.

To apply for a permit, an application must be completed and submitted to the TABC within one year of the date the class was successfully completed. The applicant must then pay a $5.00 application fee by cash, money order or cashiers check.

A server is not eligible for a permit if they:

  • Have been convicted of a felony in the previous 4 years.
  • In the previous (8) years, been convicted of: Any crime relating to the sale of alcoholic beverages, schedule 1 or 2 controlled substances, embezzlement, or any sex related crime.
  • Have had any permit issued in other jurisdictions revoked in the previous (5) years.
  • Had ownership or interest in an establishment in which the license was revoked in the previous (8) years.

Anyone serving or selling alcohol must be at least 18 years old.

You must have a social security number or work permit number.

Servers may work for up to 61 days without a valid TABC Server Permit in certain situations. This grace period begins on the hire date or date of transferring to a serving position and the date must be able to be proven.

The 61 day grace period DOES NOT APPLY to any server that has previously had a TABC 5-Year Server Permit or anyone that has been previously employed serving at a liquor by the drink establishment.

There is no grace period when a TABC Server Permit expires. A server must attend another class in order to receive a new permit prior to the expiration date. If a permit is lost which is still valid, contact the TABC office closest to you to obtain another copy.

The 5-year permit issued by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission is the only permit allowing someone to serve alcohol in Tennessee. The certificate you receive for successfully completing Top Shelf Responsible Beverage Service is proof you attended and successfully completed an alcohol awareness program, not a permit to serve liquor, wine or super beers.

A copy of the 5-year permit must be readily available either by the server or the establishment for inspection at any time by an agent of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

TCA-57-2-101. “Intoxicating liquors” and “intoxicating drinks” defined:

“Intoxicating liquors” or “intoxicating drinks,” means and includes alcohol, spirits, liquors, wines and every liquid or solid, patented or not, containing alcohol, spirits, liquor or wine, and capable of being consumed by human beings; but nothing in this chapter shall be construed or defined as including or relating to the manufacture of any beverage with alcohol content of five percent (5%) or less.

Local Beer Boards regulate the sale of beer. Please consult local ordinances in your area for further information.

1. Required Signs and Postings

Any person, partnership, corporation, or other legal entity holding an on-premise consumption liquor-by-drink license issued under Chapter 4 of Title 57, shall prominently display and post, and keep displayed and posted, in the most conspicuous place in the licensed premises, the license so issued.

Each holder of a license to sell wine or other alcoholic beverages for on the premises consumption shall display in a prominent place at the location where such sales are permitted a sign, at least six (6") inches high and fourteen (14") wide stating:


Both retail and on-premise licensee’s shall post, in a prominent place easily seen by it’s customers, a warning sign supplied by the alcoholic beverage commission which states:


Minimum penalty for each of sign not properly posted is $250.00.

There are no laws about serving pregnant women, if there were your establishment would have to give a pregnancy test to every woman ordering a drink. If any server has a problem with serving a pregnant woman speak with a manager, without comment or action to the guest.

2. Hours

No licensee shall permit alcoholic or malt beverages to be consumed on the licensed premise between the hours of 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Monday through Saturday or between the hours of 3 a.m. and 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Local Ordinances dictate whether an establishment can serve at 10 a.m. or 12:00 p.m. on Sundays. If someone does not know the local ordinance in their area they will need to contact their local government to be sure.

3. Employee Activities Restricted

An on-premise licensee shall not permit any employee to dance with the customers or sit with the customers on the licensed premises not shall any customers be permitted to purchase food or drink for any such employee on the licensed premises. The presence or activity of so-called “b” girls is specifically prohibited.

4. Open Container Law

No driver shall consume any alcoholic beverage or beer or possess an open container of alcoholic beverage or beer while operating a motor vehicle in this state. Class C misdemeanor. BEWARE. Consumption of alcoholic beverages by passengers may be prohibited by municipal ordinance or county resolution.

5. Wine

No licensee may sell any wine or other beverage alcohol in any sealed or unsealed package for consumption outside the premises. Not withstanding the foregoing, a restaurant licensed may permit a consumer who purchases an unsealed package of wine in connection with a food purchase and consumes a portion of the wine on the premises to remove the partially filled package from the premises.

No licensee shall give away any such sealed package or any drink of wine or alcoholic beverage to any patron or customer; provided, that any hotel licensed under this chapter may include four (4) seven hundred fifty milliliter (750 ml.) complimentary sealed package of wine or alcoholic beverages which must have all appropriate taxes paid upon them.

6. Tennessee Dram Shop Law

This law creates civil liability for selling/serving alcohol to persons causing injury. The Tennessee General assembly has found that the consumption of alcoholic beverage or beer, rather than the furnishing of alcoholic beverage or beer is the proximate cause of injuries inflicted upon another by an intoxicated person. Nevertheless, establishments, servers, bartenders and managers can be held liable and ordered to pay a judgment to a person who has suffered personal injury or death if a jury finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the sales by such person of the alcoholic beverage or beer was the proximate cause of personal injury or death sustained and that such person:

  1. Sold the alcoholic beverage or beer to a person known to be under the age of twenty-one (21) years and such person caused the personal injury or death as the direct result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage or beer so sold; or
  2. Sold the alcoholic beverage or beer to an obviously intoxicated person and such person caused the personal injury or death as the direct result of the consumption of the alcoholic beverage or beer so sold.

7. Driving Under the Influence

It is unlawful for any person to drive or to be in physical control of any automobile or other motor driven vehicle on any public roads and highways of the state, or on any streets or alleys, or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park or any apartment house complex, or any other premises which is generally frequented by the public at large while:

  1. Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug, or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system: or
  2. The alcohol concentration in such person’s blood or breath is eight hundredths of one percent (.08%) or more.

8. Sales to Minors

Selling to ANYONE UNDER the age of TWENTY-ONE (21) is a crime. The legal age to purchase or consume alcohol is twenty-one (21) years of age. Anyone who sells, furnishes, disposes or gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, disposed of, or given, any alcoholic beverage to any person under Twenty-one (21) years of age commits a Class A misdemeanor.

Any person under the age of twenty-one (21) who purchases, attempts to purchase, receives, or has in such person’s possession in any public place, any alcoholic beverage, commits a Class A misdemeanor.

9. False Identification, Confiscating Identification

Exhibiting False Identification is a Crime. Any person under the age of twenty-one (21) years who knowingly makes a false statement or exhibits false identification to the effect the licensee is twenty-one (21) years or older to any person engaged in the sale of alcoholic beverages for the purpose of purchasing or obtaining the same commits a Class A misdemeanor. Penalties for violation of this section may include fines, community service and imprisonment, as well as loss of driving privileges.

The establishment cannot confiscate false identification, but is urged to contact local police or a TABC agent.

10. Underage Driving While Impaired

A person age sixteen (16) or over but under twenty-one (21) may not drive or be in physical control of an automobile or other motor driven vehicle while:

  1. The alcohol concentration in the person’s blood is more than two hundredths of one percent (.02%);
  2. Under the influence of alcohol;
  3. Under the influence of any intoxicant, marijuana, narcotic drug, or drug producing stimulating effects on the central nervous system: or
  4. Any combination above which makes the person’s driving ability impaired. Class A misdemeanor. Penalties include suspension of license, fines, and community service.

11. Happy Hour Rules

No licensee or employee or agent of a licensee shall engage in any of the following promotional practices during the period beginning with 10 p.m., prevailing time, until the time set by law for closing such licensed establishments:

  1. Serve two or more drinks or containers of alcoholic beverages to a consumer at a time.
  2. Sell, offer to sell, or deliver to any person or group of persons any drinks that are priced less than the price regularly charged for that drink in that size during the same calendar week, except at private functions not open to the public; or
  3. Increase the volume of alcohol contained in any such drink during any calendar week without increasing proportionately the price regularly charged for such drink.

12. Prohibited Practices

No licensee or employee or agent of a licensee shall give away any sealed package, or any drink of wine or alcoholic beverage. ‘Give” for the purposes of this statute, includes:

  1. Offering or delivering any free drink to any person or group of persons;
  2. Offering or delivering unlimited drinks for a fixed price if the actual cost of all ingredients, including the alcohol and all applicable taxes of the drinks actually served exceeds the fixed price charged; and,
  3. Awarding any wine or alcoholic beverages as a prize or free drink or encouraging or conducting any game or contest which involves drinking or uses wine or alcohol as a prize or free drink.

13. Serving Intoxicated Persons

Prohibited Sales. It is unlawful to sell or furnish any alcoholic beverage to any person who is known to be insane or mentally defective, or to any person who is visibly intoxicated, known to drink alcoholic beverages to excess or to any person who is known to be a habitual user of narcotics or other habit-forming drugs. Violation of the section is a Class A misdemeanor.

14. Manager Questionnaire

(also known as LBD Form or Pink Sheet )

 All managers are required to fill out a Manager Questionnaire.  This form must be filed with the TABC PRIOR to a manager taking on manager duties in ANY LOCATION even when transferring to other stores within the same company.

 The fines for not having this form on file as required by law are a minimum of $250.00.  It is advised that you receive proof from the TABC when it is received and filed in their office.

Off Premise Responsible Beer Vendor

‘The Tennessee Responsible Vendor Act of 2006’ went into effect on July 1, 2007.   This law is designed to (1) eliminate the sale of beer to underage persons; (2) reduce intoxication and reduce accidents, injuries, and deaths in TN which are related to intoxication; and (3) encourage vendors to be prudent in their selling practices for beer. 

First, the TN RVA of 2006 requires anyone purchasing beer for off-premise consumption to present identification.  This is mandatory for all retailers selling beer for off-premise consumption. Retailers are also required to post signs that are at least 8-1/2" x 11" and contain the following language:

Second, businesses can, on a VOLUNTARY basis, become a part of the "Responsible Vendor Program" which is administered by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

To become a "Responsible Vendor" a retailer will be required to have each of their clerks complete a clerk training course approved by the TABC.  The TABC has authority over the training requirements while local beer boards maintain their authority over all aspects of the beer permit process. The local beer boards must take into account the retailer's status as a Responsible Vendor when fines and/or suspensions take place.

 The final rules have been approved and TopShelf Off-Premise is approved and ready to assist your company. Go to http://www.tennessee.gov/abc/NEWS%20page.html for the approved Responsible Vendor Act rules, a summary of the act, and the Responsible Vendor statute (public act no. 864).
***The Responsible Vendor statute states that all clerks working for an approved Responsible Vendor retailer must wear a name badge with the clerk's first and last name. For obvious security reasons, we have asked the state legislature to change this law during the 2008 legislative session. The ABC understands the security issues and the oversight when the statute was passed and has stated that they will not impose fines based on that law. Therefore, retailers can continue to use name badges with only the first name without penalty from the ABC.

Cities and counties in TN can have additional requirements and we hope to have all of those listed here soon. Please keep checking back but if you have immediate questions about your city or county codes please give them a call.