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Why do Most Mobile Bars Operate as Dry Hires in Tennessee?

Craft Cocktail

Introduction to Dry Hire Mobile Bars

In the world of events and celebrations, mobile bars have become increasingly popular. These portable bars bring a touch of sophistication and convenience to any gathering, from weddings and corporate events to private parties and festivals.

However, many people are unaware of the term "dry hire" and what it entails in the context of mobile bars. In essence, a dry hire refers to the rental of equipment or services without the inclusion of consumable goods—in this case, alcohol.

What is a Dry Hire?

A dry hire for a mobile bar means that the bar service is provided without the alcohol. The client rents the bar setup, including the bar structure, glassware, bartending equipment, and sometimes even the bartenders, but they supply their own alcoholic beverages. This arrangement stands in contrast to a "wet hire," where the mobile bar service would include the supply of alcohol.

Legal Landscape in Tennessee

To understand why most mobile bars in Tennessee operate as dry hires, it’s important to delve into the state’s regulatory framework governing alcohol. Tennessee has stringent alcohol laws that impact how mobile bars can function.

The state’s alcohol regulations are enforced by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), which oversees the licensing and legal distribution of alcoholic beverages.

Licensing Requirements

One of the primary reasons mobile bars in Tennessee often operate as dry hires is due to the complexity and cost of obtaining an alcohol license. In Tennessee, to legally sell or distribute alcohol, a business must obtain a liquor license, which involves a rigorous application process, significant fees, and compliance with numerous regulations.

Mobile bars, especially smaller or newer businesses, may find these requirements prohibitive. The stringent background checks, financial disclosures, and the necessity to comply with zoning laws make obtaining a liquor license a challenging endeavor.

Liability and Insurance

Operating as a dry hire significantly reduces the liability for mobile bar operators. When a business supplies alcohol, it assumes a higher level of responsibility for the consumption and potential consequences of alcohol consumption at the event.

This includes potential legal issues related to over-serving guests, underage drinking, and alcohol-related incidents. By operating as a dry hire, mobile bar owners can mitigate these risks. They are not responsible for the alcohol supply and its consumption, thereby reducing their liability and insurance costs.

Customization and Flexibility

Clients have greater control over the selection of alcohol when they provide their own beverages. This allows for a more personalized experience, where the host can choose specific brands, types of drinks, and quantities that best suit their preferences and the preferences of their guests. This level of customization can enhance the overall event experience, ensuring that the beverage offerings align perfectly with the theme and tone of the occasion.

Cost Control

Dry hires can also be more cost-effective for clients. By sourcing their own alcohol, clients can take advantage of bulk purchasing, sales, or even use their own stock. This often results in significant savings compared to purchasing alcohol through a third-party service, which might mark up prices. Additionally, clients can manage their budget more effectively by controlling the amount and type of alcohol provided.

Operational Flexibility for Mobile Bar Owners

Operating as a dry hire provides mobile bar owners with increased operational flexibility. They can focus on the core aspects of their service—providing a stylish bar setup, skilled bartenders, and excellent customer service—without the added complexity of managing an alcohol inventory.

Simplified Logistics

Without the need to handle alcohol, mobile bar operators can streamline their logistics. This includes transportation, storage, and inventory management. By eliminating these factors, they can reduce operational headaches and focus on delivering a high-quality bar experience. This also allows for quicker setup and breakdown times, making it easier to serve multiple events in a short period.

Expanded Market Opportunities

Dry hires enable mobile bars to operate in a wider range of venues. Many event spaces have their own alcohol policies and may not allow outside alcohol vendors. By offering a dry hire service, mobile bars can still provide their services at these venues, as the alcohol provision falls under the venue’s purview or the client's responsibility. This opens up more opportunities for bookings and partnerships.

Case Study: Classic Taps


Classic Taps is a distinguished mobile bar service based in Nashville, Tennessee. Known for their sleek, retro-styled bar setups and professional service, Classic Taps has become a favorite for weddings, corporate events, and private parties across the state. They operate primarily on a dry hire basis, allowing clients to provide their own alcohol while Classic Taps delivers an exceptional bartending experience.

Business Model and Services

Classic Taps offers a comprehensive bar service that includes the rental of their vintage-vehicle bar units, glassware, bartending tools, and professional bartenders. They also offer additional services such as drink menu consultation and custom cocktail creation. However, clients are responsible for supplying their own alcoholic beverages, which aligns with Tennessee’s stringent liquor licensing regulations.

Success Through Flexibility

By operating as a dry hire, Classic Taps has navigated the complex legal landscape of alcohol service in Tennessee while providing a high level of flexibility to their clients. This model has allowed them to:

  • Expand Their Client Base: By not being tied to alcohol licensing restrictions, Classic Taps can serve events in a wider range of venues, including those that have their own alcohol policies.

  • Offer Customization: Clients appreciate the ability to choose their own alcohol, which can include specific brands or types of drinks that are meaningful to them or their guests.

  • Maintain Competitive Pricing: Without the added costs of licensing and alcohol inventory, Classic Taps can keep their pricing competitive, making their services accessible to a broader audience.

Navigating the Dry Hire Experience

For those considering hiring a mobile bar in Tennessee, understanding the dry hire model is essential. Here are some tips to ensure a smooth and successful dry hire experience:

Communicate Clearly

Clear communication with the mobile bar provider is crucial. Discuss your expectations, the type of event, the number of guests, and any specific requirements you may have. This ensures that the bar service aligns perfectly with your event needs.

Plan Your Alcohol Supply

Work with your mobile bar provider to determine the types and quantities of alcohol needed for your event. They can offer guidance based on their experience, helping you avoid over-purchasing or running out of beverages mid-event.

Understand Legal Responsibilities

Ensure that you are aware of your legal responsibilities regarding alcohol service at your event. This includes understanding local laws, obtaining any necessary permits, and ensuring responsible service practices to avoid any legal issues.


The prevalence of dry hire mobile bars in Tennessee is a testament to the practical and legal benefits this model offers. For mobile bar operators, it simplifies operations, reduces liability, and allows for greater focus on delivering exceptional service. For clients, it offers flexibility, cost control, and the ability to customize their event experience.

As the demand for unique and personalized event experiences continues to grow, the dry hire model will likely remain a popular choice in Tennessee. Whether you’re planning a wedding, a corporate event, or a private party, understanding the advantages of dry hire mobile bars can help you make an informed decision that enhances your celebration.

Classic Taps exemplifies how a mobile bar service can thrive by adopting the dry hire model, combining professional service with client flexibility to create memorable event experiences. By navigating the complexities of Tennessee’s alcohol laws and focusing on client satisfaction, Classic Taps has set a standard for mobile bar services in the state.

Here at Classic Taps we are always looking to be a part of your next event. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Written by Michael Elliott May 30th, 2024

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