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KINGSPORT, Tenn. -- Beginning July 1, Tennessee will be the first state in the nation to require universal carding for purchases of beer for off-premises consumption, according to The Tennessee Responsible Vendor Act. The legislation will not affect the sale of wine and liquor, monitored by the office of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), or beer sales in restaurants and clubs, the Kingsport Times reported.
The act, passed by the General Assembly last year, is hailed by proponents as an innovative and strong step in the fight against underage drinking. The legislation will expire in July 2008, giving lawmakers and vendors an opportunity to review the process.
In the coming weeks, Jarron Springer, president of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, said he will begin briefing the grocery and c-stores in his association on the issue, which he feels establishes Tennessee as a national leader on the underage issue, according to the report. Springer suspects other states will soon follow.
Many local stores have already begun the carding practice, including 47 Roadrunner Markets in the Tri-Cities. John Kelly, chief operating officer for Roadrunner Markets, implemented the strict policy last year, and said it makes it less likely that a clerk will make a mistake, the report stated. Kelly also said regular customers quickly adapted to the stricter carding procedures and most now arrive at the counter with ID in hand.
The new law also establishes a voluntary Responsible Vendor Program, which will be administered by the Tennessee ABC Office. To become a "responsible vendor," a retailer will be required to have each of their clerks complete a server training course approved by the ABC, according to the Kingsport Times.
Additionally, the civil penalties for underage sales against ABC-certified responsible vendors will differ from retailers that are not certified, providing an incentive for stores to volunteer for the program. Non-participating retailers face a license suspension, revocation or a fine of $2,500 for each underage sale violation, an increase from the previous penalty of $1,500, the report stated.
However, responsible vendors face a fine up to $1,000 for each underage sale violation. If a retailer has two violations in a 12-month period the ABC will revoke their responsible vendor status, and if violations continue, the vendor will be subject to a license suspension, revocation or a fine up to $2,500 by the local beer board. These are penalties non-certified vendors can face on a first offense, according to the report.
Responsible vendors must pay an annual fee based on the number of certified clerks per store. That fee ranges from $25 for 1 to 15 certified clerks up to $250 for stores with more than 100 clerks certified, the Kingsport Times reported.