How Arbitrary Alcohol Rules Killed a Knoxville, Tennessee Business [UPDATED!]



Read it and weep. Here's the farewell note from the proprietors of The Valarium, a music venue in Knoxville, Tennessee:

The Valarium and CiderHouse will cease operation on November 25th….

Due to new rule changes from the TN Alcoholic Beverage Commission concerning the minimum percentage of food an establishment must sell in relation to its gross sales, our venues will be closing…. Since we cannot meet their requirements, we will relinquish and not renew our ABC license when it expires November 24th, 2012.

We have never received any citations for over serving or serving an underage. However, we have been told we will be fined, prosecuted, or subject to revocation procedure for not serving enough food. They do not recognize the fact that we are a big, fast-paced venue where people come to see shows, dance, drink and socialize on a large scale, not to eat dinner. This is as unreasonable as them passing a law stating that all restaurants must install a stage and dance floor.

Among other ABC rules the management can't accomodate is one mandating that an establishment serving booze be open a certain number of days a year. 

Good business practices dictate that you don't open when it's not viable. Opening for the sake of just being open forces you to offer drink specials, steep discounts, ridiculous contests, and promotions that may encourage over serving. If the primary mission statement of the TN ABC is to promote temperance, what could be more temperate than not opening on off nights? We are not aware of any other state that has these rules.

Read the whole letter here.

And so dies a joint that was named Best Rock Club and Best Dance Club in the 2011 Best of Knoxville listings by the alt-weekly Metro Pulse.

Hat tip: Twitter feed of Christopher Hudson (follow him @christopherhudsonjr @chrishudsonjr)

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  1. This is how government stimulates the economy.

  2. Too bad they didn't focus on how many employees they had to let go and such.

    Otherwise, that sucks, but honestly, let's face it, they more than likely voted in the people that came up with those awesome regulations.

    1. No, the letter says these are new rules promulgated by a commission, which is probably composed of appointees.

  3. Good business practices dictate that you don't open when it's not viable.

    What the fuck do "good business practices" have to do with regulation?

    The men at the top make up the rules. Your job is to generate the tax revenue to pay their salaries.

    1. How does going out of business generate tax revenue?

      1. And you call yourself sarcasmic?

  4. they more than likely voted in the people that came up with those awesome regulations.

    Yeah, but those biker bars need to be kept on a short leash.
    If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.

  5. Should be interesting to see how that all turns out. Wow.

  6. They probably just would have just cut back their employees' hours to avoid Obamacare anyway, the greedy bastards. You go, bureaucrats!

    1. Well, alcoholics do tend to have a lot of health problems, so they were just bending the cost curve.

      1. Alcoholics die young enough that they don't drain the pension funds, too.

  7. So basically Tennessee has outlawed bars and clubs, unless they are part of a restaurant.

    What the hell kind of dance club doesn't serve alcohol?
    And what is the logic behind outlawing bars that don't serve food?

    1. And what is the logic behind outlawing bars that don't serve food?

      Temperance promotion. (I'll emphasize that I'm not claiming that it actually works or that the goal is even desirable, but that's the justification given for it.)

      1. Well yeah, but I'm not sure how you go from temperance promotion to a desire to abolish dance clubs and music venues.

    2. They are not the only state. Virginia has a similar requirement. There are no stand-alone bars anywhere in the Commonwealth (the one exception is tasting rooms at wineries and breweries).

      1. Are there also no dance clubs? Even in places like Virginia Beach?
        I'm curious how someone manages to operate any kind of club venue in the state, or if it is even possible.

        What do the strip clubs do?

        1. A lot of places don't allow liquor to be served at strip clubs; they're BYOB, some with juice bars.

    3. I'd like to know more about this. Laws requiring a certain minimum ratio of food to drink, or requiring that food be available, are old temperance measures that exist in many places. However, a new regulation imposing such a requirement (possibly increasing a ratio previously imposed, or putting in a ratio in place of a vaguer standard), alongside minimum days or hours of oper'n, is a suspicious combination that looks like it was adopted specifically to outlaw or discourage nightclubs. What you have here is a place that sells tickets for entertainment and then makes considerable revenue in addition from booze. They're not interested in operating their bars at times when there's no act booked, because people want to go other places just to drink, and they're not interested in the restaurant business, either, which to operate efficiently would probably require extensive redesign of the place, compromising its value as an entertainment venue. This is not a dinner theater, or a place with tables and a floor show; this is a place that's primarily dance floor with bars on the side and just enough space for musicians to perform. It would appear that bureaucrats in Knoxville have effectively outlawed dance clubs.

  8. Think of it as eminent domain for alcohol licenses. Now some more worthy establishment will get the license, stay open more hours, serve food, and do more business with more customers, keeping the area alive even on slow days, generating more tax revenue. A win-win-win!

  9. Circle of belief catching up with partiers here.

    Just my coupla cents: I'm a partier, have been for years, prob like many people who hang here. My perspective of the scene based on a bible-belt location (though mine is much more Ohio and rural) similar to Knoxville is that partiers within temperance-centric locales will not push-back against excessive regulation hindering their enjoyment of the party life. I've come to an anecdotal reason for this which is that many of the people who club and party are sitting on a pew out of at least 50-75% of a year's Sundays.

    I've met a crapload of folks over the years in bars, clubs, venues, and party gatherings who believe in deity-imbued government restraining organic social behavior- even as they responsibly call a taxi to haul their drunk asses home from a long night of partying. From my perspective there exists a LOT of guilt in the drinking scene due to these factors.

    This is what I've found so odd about almost everyone I've met physically over the years particularly in my favorite scene (partying and general debauchery). There is a strange dichotomy in humans... on one hand, "Yay, let's be free and enjoy adult choice" while on the other hand in the same mind runs an over-arching refrain, "Adult choice cannot be left up to me- I want the group ABOVE me to determine the scope of my choice."

    1. If people were more "deity-imbued" (good term!) they could rely for guidance on their religious communities, rather than fobbing off their moral choices onto the government - the govt tends to get bigger as intermediate institutions get weaker.

      1. One would think. But, based on my over-exposure to heady religiosity in a distant past the calls to utilize government to impose a specific moral conviction is just as strong within the religious community as it is within the strident collectivist kingdoms.

    2. But Knoxville's a bit different. It is in a Bible belt, and its imposition on the liquor business is enough that people in Bristol tend to shop for liquor in the ABC stores (state stores) on the Va. side rather than the private liquor establishments on the Tenn. side, indicating better prices in Va. However, Knoxville is also a university town and a bit avant-garde apparently because of that. My experience is from over 30 yrs. ago and things may have changed, but I'd be surprised if there's no pushback on the dance club issue in Knoxville.

      (I think whatever influence atomic energy had on Knoxville is spent by now, so that's neither here nor there.)

  10. Before everyone gets way too bent out of shape, you might want to read this post from the aforementioned metro pulse:
    It appears that the TN ABC, as stupid as it is (they prohibit the sale of wine in grocery stores and you cannot buy beer in liquor stores), may not be the reason that this joint is closing down.

  11. It smells to me as if someone is getting monetary benefit from this (besides the compensastion "earned" by bureaucrats). Who, and why?

  12. Or maybe, just maybe, the club owner's "farewell note" was not entirely accurate:

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