ABC backs off of ban on infused alcoholic drinks

ABC backs off of ban on infused alcoholic drinks

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Bourbon infused with vanilla bean at The Peter Kern Library. Bourbon infused with vanilla bean at The Peter Kern Library.
"When I learned about it, I was very angry," Aaron Thompson, the owner of Sapphire, said. "I feel like it's just ignorance on the part of the ABC of not understand the emerging market." "When I learned about it, I was very angry," Aaron Thompson, the owner of Sapphire, said. "I feel like it's just ignorance on the part of the ABC of not understand the emerging market."

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A state agency has reversed course on a ban on infused alcohol.

Those are liquors that have had fruit or herbs mixed in with them, allowing the flavors to steep into the alcohol.

Earlier this month, Tennessee's Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) said it would punish bars and restaurants which make their own infusions.

Many bar owners tell 6 News they are relieved the ban is not going to be enforced yet.

Aaron Thompson, the owner of Sapphire, a bar and restaurant downtown, said he's been looking into serving infused drinks.

But that was before the Tennessee ABC sent a letter to some bars, stating infusing or blending alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic products is prohibited.

"When I learned about it, I was very angry," Thompson said. "I feel like it's just ignorance on the part of the ABC of not understand the emerging market."

The state ABC cited health and welfare concerns when interpreting the 2006 law.

But now ABC officials say the agency is suspending its plan to start penalizing establishments serving the infused drinks.

The Peter Kern Library inside the Oliver Hotel is a popular bar in Market Square. On their menu, you'll find housemade, infused drinks.

Matt Scanlan, the attorney for The Oliver Hotel and the Tennessee Hospitality Association, says representatives from the ABC, the Tennessee Hospitality Association, the governor's office and the Nashville Convention and Visitor's Bureau had a meeting on the issue Monday morning.

"There's some gray area there that needs to be clarified and we are going to be able to work together to do that," Scanlan said. "For now, the interpretation that was previously issued is not going to be enforced until such time as we are able to pass some legislation."

Thompson hopes bar owners don't face too much additional regulation in the future, but says he will be supportive of the legislation if the ABC's crackdown is for safety only.

"It bears for them to understand what an infusion actually is, has it ever made anyone in history sick?" he said.

Scanlan said in the future legislation, Tennessee's ABC will likely provide regulatory guidance for safety, but not ban infused drinks in the future.

Tennessee ABC officials are indefinitely suspending enforcement of the regulation while they develop guidelines and definitions for the use of infused alcohol.

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