In 1933 the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution repealed Prohibition and granted each state the right to control the importation, distribution and sale of alcohol within its borders. Ever since then Tennessee has relied upon a three–tier distribution system that ensures the most tightly controlled and safe beverage alcohol environment for consumers.

Many “control” states such as Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina, have established government monopolies over the sale of beverage alcohol, which gives the government the responsibility of monitoring and maintaining a safe environment for the appropriate distribution of this highly– regulated product. But because Tennessee is run by a private industry, it is up to those firms involved to set up a system of checks and balances that safeguards the responsible sale of alcohol within the state. This is exactly what the three–tier system achieves.

The three–tier system:

a) Drives competition for better products and pricing
b) Provides a controlled environment in which to monitor this highly–regulated product
c) Protects the public from the consequences of irresponsible sale of beverage alcohol
d) Offers consumers more choice

Tier one: Distillers, vintners and brewers—who only sell to licensed distributors or wholesalers
Tier two: Tennessee–based licensed beverage distributors or wholesalers—who only sell to licensed retailers
Tier three: Licensed retailers—who only sell to customers over 21 in legal areas and only after the proper tax collection.

As new legislation threatens to liberalize Tennessee laws, WSWT remains wholly committed to upholding the three–tier distribution because we know it provides a balanced approach to the safe distribution of beverage alcohol.

Years ago, Tennessee's lawmakers were very careful to create system where access to and control of alcohol went hand in hand. Lawmakers wanted to make certain that high proof alcohol—wine and spirits—were sold in an environment that was tightly controlled. It is a system that has worked and will continue to work for this state, and we are proud to be a part of it.

Tennessee Beverage Alcohol Laws
Click here to learn more about Tennessee's beverage alcohol laws.


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