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Are Tap Trucks and Mobile Bars Legal in Tennessee?

Updated: Jun 27, 2023


Classic Taps Tap Truck

Tap Trucks and mobile bars like Classic Taps in Nashville, Tennessee have emerged as a popular and innovative solution for serving alcoholic beverages at various private events and gatherings. With their mobility and versatility, they offer a unique twist to traditional brick-and-mortar establishments. However, before embarking on the Tap Truck trend in Tennessee, it's crucial to understand the legal framework governing these businesses.


Just for clarification, tap trucks are technically mobile bars. However, they are usually referred to separately due to their operation. A tap truck is typically built from a classic truck which will enclose a draft beer and cocktail system.


When someone mentioned a mobile bar they could be referring to a simple bar or a fully built-out horse trailer that has been converted to serve high-end cocktails, and draft beer. Though these two mobile bars are different in appearance they share the same struggle and that is Are tap trucks and mobile bars legal in Tennessee?”


In this blog post, we will delve into the regulations and requirements for operating a Tap Truck or mobile bar in Tennessee, ensuring you have a comprehensive understanding of the legal landscape.


Tennessee Liquor Laws


Tennessee, like each individual state, possesses specific laws and regulations regarding the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, including those concerning Tap Trucks and mobile bars in Nashville, Tennessee. The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) oversees alcohol-related activities and enforces the same regulations for mobile bars as it does for traditional bars and restaurants.


To legally operate a Tap Truck or mobile bar, you must obtain the necessary licenses and permits. In Tennessee, there are two primary licenses: the On-Premises License and the Off-Premises License. The On-Premises License permits the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the licensed premises, while the Off-Premises License allows sales for consumption off the licensed premises.


Getting these licenses presents a significant challenge. When it comes to mobile bars and tap trucks, obtaining a liquor license or beer license is nearly impossible. In Tennessee, individuals applying for a beer or liquor license must have a physical establishment with seating for at least 16 people.


Consequently, mobile bars and tap trucks operating in Nashville, Tennessee, such as Classic Taps, are classified as "Dry Hires." This means they are prohibited from selling alcohol. Instead, the responsibility falls on the client to procure all alcoholic beverages for the event. However, as dry hire mobile bars and tap trucks, they are permitted to prepare and serve drinks to the guests.


Licensing and Permits


Acquiring the appropriate licenses and permits for your Tap Truck in Tennessee requires following specific procedures. First, you need to register your business entity with the Tennessee Secretary of State. You have the option to establish a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC), or a corporation.


Selecting the right business structure is crucial, as it impacts personal liability and tax obligations. For Classic Taps we found that filing as an LLC was most appropriate for our business. You may also need to demonstrate compliance with local zoning requirements and furnish proof of liability insurance.


Compliance and Restrictions


Operating a Tap Truck in Tennessee requires adherence to certain restrictions. For instance, serving alcoholic beverages to individuals below the legal drinking age of 21 is strictly prohibited. As a Tap Truck operator, it is your responsibility to verify the age of your customers and refuse service to minors.


Furthermore, Tennessee law restricts the sale of alcoholic beverages between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m. Complying with these operating hours is essential, ensuring that you do not serve alcohol during prohibited times. Though you will not be selling alcohol due to your mobile bar or tap truck being a dry hire, it is important to understand the local laws to make sure you fall under compliance.


Additionally, without proper authorization, mobile bars, including Tap Trucks, are not permitted to operate on public property. If you plan to set up your Tap Truck at a public event or space, you will need to obtain the necessary permits from the relevant authorities.


Insurance


If you own a business, having the correct insurance is extremely important. One incident with a mobile bar or tap truck could end up costing you your business. A mobile bar should have both a general liability insurance policy and of course liquor liability. Let's talk about them!


General Liability Insurance


A mobile bar or tap truck in Nashville, Tennessee should have general liability insurance for several important reasons:

  1. Protection against third-party claims: General liability insurance provides coverage for bodily injury or property damage claims made by third parties. In the context of a mobile bar, this could include situations where a guest slips and falls, or there is damage to the venue or someone else's property due to the operations of the mobile bar. Without insurance, the mobile bar owner/operator could be personally liable for any resulting costs or legal expenses.

  2. Coverage for product liability: If the mobile bar serves alcoholic beverages, there is always a risk that a guest may consume too much and cause harm to themselves or others. General liability insurance can help protect against potential lawsuits arising from alcohol-related incidents, such as accidents or injuries caused by intoxicated guests. This coverage can be crucial in managing legal costs and potential settlements

  3. Peace of mind and professionalism: Having general liability insurance demonstrates a commitment to professionalism and responsible business practices. It reassures clients and event organizers that the mobile bar is prepared for unexpected incidents and has measures in place to handle them. This can enhance the credibility and reputation of the mobile bar, potentially leading to more bookings and business opportunities.

  4. Requirement by venues and event organizers: Many venues and event organizers require vendors, including mobile bars, to provide proof of insurance before allowing them to operate on their premises. Without general liability insurance, a mobile bar may be excluded from participating in events or securing contracts with certain venues, limiting its potential market and revenue opportunities.

Ultimately, general liability insurance for a mobile bar serves as a safeguard, protecting the business and its owners from financial liabilities arising from accidents, damages, or legal claims, while also providing a level of assurance to clients and event organizers.

Liquor Liability Insurance


Liquor Liability insurance is a necessity if you are planning to serve clients alcohol. A mobile bar should have liquor liability insurance for several important reasons:

  1. Coverage for alcohol-related incidents: Liquor liability insurance provides protection specifically for incidents related to the service or consumption of alcohol. This coverage is crucial for mobile bars because they are involved in the sale and serving of alcoholic beverages. In the event that a guest becomes intoxicated and causes harm to themselves or others, liquor liability insurance can help cover legal expenses, medical costs, and potential settlements resulting from lawsuits.

  2. Compliance with legal requirements: In many jurisdictions, businesses that serve or sell alcohol are legally obligated to carry liquor liability insurance. This requirement ensures that there is financial coverage in place to address any harm caused by the consumption of alcohol. Failing to have liquor liability insurance can result in fines, penalties, or even the revocation of the mobile bar's license to operate.

  3. Protection against lawsuits and claims: Alcohol-related incidents can lead to lawsuits and claims that can be financially devastating for a mobile bar. If a guest alleges that their injuries or damages were caused by the mobile bar's negligent service of alcohol, the mobile bar may be held liable. Liquor liability insurance helps cover legal defense costs, settlements, or judgments, providing financial protection to the business.

  4. Enhanced credibility and trust: Having liquor liability insurance demonstrates a commitment to responsible alcohol service and risk management. It shows clients, event organizers, and venue owners that the mobile bar takes its responsibilities seriously and is prepared for any potential liabilities. This can enhance the mobile bar's credibility, reputation, and chances of securing contracts and bookings.

  5. Compliance with venue requirements: Many venues require mobile bars to carry liquor liability insurance before allowing them to operate on their premises. This requirement is designed to protect the venue from potential liabilities arising from alcohol-related incidents. By having liquor liability insurance in place, mobile bars can meet these requirements and access a broader range of venues and events.

Liquor liability insurance is specifically tailored to address the unique risks associated with alcohol service. It provides crucial protection and ensures that a mobile bar is prepared to handle the potential financial and legal consequences of alcohol-related incidents


Commercial Auto Insurance


It’s important to note, if your mobile bar is a trailer or free-standing bar, you will most likely not need commercial auto insurance. It's important to check compliance guidelines in your state to determine if your mobile bar will need auto insurance if it is not being driven on the road. A tap truck should have commercial auto insurance for several important reasons.

  1. Protection for accidents and damages: Commercial auto insurance provides coverage for accidents involving the tap truck. Whether it's a collision with another vehicle, property damage, or bodily injury to others, commercial auto insurance helps protect the tap truck owner from financial liabilities. Without insurance, the owner/operator could be personally responsible for the costs of repairs, medical expenses, legal fees, and potential settlements.

  2. Compliance with legal requirements: In most jurisdictions, having auto insurance is a legal requirement for vehicles used for commercial purposes. Operating a tap truck qualifies as a commercial use of a vehicle, so having commercial auto insurance is necessary to comply with the law. Failing to have the appropriate insurance coverage can result in fines, penalties, or even the suspension of the tap truck's operation.

  3. Protection for passengers: If the tap truck offers transportation services to guests or customers, commercial auto insurance becomes even more crucial. It provides coverage for bodily injury or property damage to passengers in the event of an accident. This coverage can help cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from injuries sustained during transportation.

  4. Coverage for equipment and inventory: Commercial auto insurance can also provide coverage for equipment and inventory carried in the tap truck. This includes taps, kegs, cooling systems, and other valuable items. In the event of theft, damage, or loss during transit, the insurance can help reimburse the tap truck owner for the cost of replacing or repairing these items.

  5. Peace of mind and professionalism: Having commercial auto insurance demonstrates professionalism and responsible business practices. It shows clients, event organizers, and venue owners that the tap truck owner takes their obligations seriously and is prepared for unexpected events. This can enhance the credibility and reputation of the tap truck, potentially leading to more bookings and business opportunities.

Overall, commercial auto insurance for a tap truck is essential for protecting the owner from financial liabilities resulting from accidents, complying with legal requirements, safeguarding passengers, and demonstrating professionalism. It provides peace of mind and ensures that the tap truck is adequately covered in the event of unforeseen circumstances.


Other Considerations


While understanding the legal framework, obtaining licenses and permits, and adhering to restrictions are vital, there are other factors to consider when operating a Tap Truck in Tennessee. These include responsible alcohol service, well-trained staff, and compliance with health and safety regulations.Educating your staff about responsible alcohol service and training them to identify signs of intoxication and prevent over-serving is crucial.


Moreover, maintaining proper health and safety standards is imperative for the success of your Tap Truck business. Regular inspections, appropriate storage of alcoholic beverages, and cleanliness are key aspects to prioritize.


Conclusion


Operating a Tap Truck in Tennessee like Classic Taps can be an exciting venture, but it necessitates strict adherence to the state's liquor laws and regulations. By obtaining the required licenses and permits, complying with restrictions, and prioritizing responsible alcohol service and safety, you can navigate the legal landscape successfully and offer a delightful and memorable experience with your Tap Truck.


If you are looking to hire a tap truck for your next event here in the Nashville, Tennessee area, reach out! Classic Taps would love to be a part of your next event!


Written by Michael Elliott 5/14/23


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