Dry County Not So Dry Anymore

October 25, 2011
Dwayne Page
Several businesses in DeKalb County selling liquor by the drink

DeKalb County is a dry county as far as the sale of liquor is concerned.

Even so, several local restaurants are selling liquor and have been for some time, thanks to the state legislature and the "Premier Tourist Resort" act.

Premier Resort Status can be granted by the state to allow the sale of liquor in specific locations regardless of local restrictions.

Business owners, under certain conditions, can qualify to apply for a liquor license with passage of an amendment making them eligible to sell liquor by the drink under the state's "Premier Tourist Resort Act". Once businesses have that authority from the state, they may apply for a liquor license from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. If approved, the license is renewable annually.

The DeKalb County Beer Board, which grants local beer licenses, has no authority over the issuance of liquor licenses by the state.

DeKalb County businesses who currently sell liquor by the drink are the Inn at Evins Mill, the Blue Water Grille at Hurricane Marina, the Fish Lipz restaurant at Pates Ford Marina, and the Company Store near Cove Hollow.

Others who have the authority to apply are Maggie's Landing on Highway 70 at Snow Hill and the restaurant at Sligo Marina

William Cochran, owner of the Inn at Evins Mill, said his establishment first obtained a license to sell beer from the DeKalb County Beer board several years ago and he later decided to seek authority from the state to receive a liquor license. Cochran said he first had to hire a lobbyist to get a bill introduced and passed in the legislature amending the Premier Resort Act giving him the authority to sell liquor ." Unless you are a certified lobbyist yourself, you have to pay someone to lobby on your behalf to make that happen (get legislation passed for authority to apply for a liquor license in a dry county). The lobbyists in this day and time have to work pretty hard to make that happen. We got it (liquor license) in 2007. That year we started to sell wine and I think in 2008 we began to sell mixed drinks. We kind of rolled it out incrementally. We've been selling beer probably ever since we opened back in 1994 so that hasn't changed at all with this permit to sell wine and spirits,' said Cochran.

Although the investment to obtain a liquor license could be viewed as substantial, Cochran said it has been rewarding for his business. "It is an investment that is measured in tens of thousands of dollars rather than just thousands of dollars.. It is an investment that more than pays for itself in the first year. It has been a very important development for us in terms of guest satisfaction and in terms of growing our own revenues and I think the kind of place like we have that caters to the kinds of guests we cater to is the perfect thing. I know there are some people who might be opposed to it but you couldn't have a more insulated, safer, or better environment for the consumption of wines and sprits than a place like ours. You do need to be a guest of the Inn in some capacity to enjoy drinks from our bar, whether that is a dinner guest, an overnight guest, or a guest at a wedding reception or a corporate retreat. We're not the kind of place like a bar where you just show up and saddle up to the bar and order something," said Cochran.

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