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The reason why Tennessee lawmakers are trying to ban cold beer

By Marissa Sulek

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    NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WSMV) — A bill to ban the sale of cold beer and alcoholic drinks in Tennessee is getting attention, but there’s more to the legislation. Part of it would also cap the number of drinks people can have a restaurants and bars.

But before people rush to a store for their last cold beer or go to a bar one final time with no drink limit, they may want to hear from the person behind the legislation.

“When you are affected in a situation by a drunk driver you look at things differently,” said Rep. Ron Gant, R-Piperton.

He was a victim in a drunk driving crash two years ago in Hardeman County. That’s when a drunk driver crossed the median and hit Gant’s car head on. He was airlifted and hospitalized for weeks with 14 broken bones.

“The reason you see me walk with a cane is I still have a shattered hip,” Gant explained.

But he said the bill he is proposing, called the Tennessee Prevention of Drunk Driving Act, isn’t about him.

“I know this isn’t popular from a lot of people because they haven’t been affected by a death in their family from a drunk driver,” added Gant.

Ban on cold alcoholic drinks The first part of the bill would ban the sale of cold alcoholic drinks at convenience stores. It’s currently a law only in Indiana. “Let’s not make it easy for a person who is going to drink and drive to be able to continue to go in there and buy cold beer,” Gant explained.

He said this initiative would hopefully make people more proactive and buy the beer ahead of time to refrigerate at home.

“Is it such an inconvenience to only buy room temperature beer?” asked Rep. Gant. “And knowing that you’re doing that you are stopping bad actors from having easy access to cold beer.”

Cap drinks at restaurants and bars The second part of the bill would allow customers to only have a certain number of drinks at a bar or restaurant, unless they have a designated driver with them. Gant added it would make servers feel less responsible for over serving customers.

“I mean why do we do that to servers across the state?” Gant said. “I mean I wouldn’t want to be in that position.”

Alcoholic Beverage Commission helps investigators The third part of the legislation would require law enforcement to work with the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) when they investigate a drunk driving crash.

The ABC could then trace where the person obtained their beer or liquor. From there the store or bar they got their drink from could lose their license. “If you look up and down the roads you see those beer cans and the bottles that are littering our highways,” Gant explained. “The Alcoholic Beverage Commission will tell you that they trace a lot of this alcohol back to those type sources.”

The final part of the bill would require the ABC to report to lawmakers every two years about their findings.

Lawmakers know the bill is a heavy lift.

“Next they’ll be outlawing coffee, I guess,” joked Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge. Democratic lawmakers wish there was this much focus on gun reform.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we are moving with more urgency to ban cold beer than we are to ban weapons of war from our street,” says Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville.

“It sparks a conversation I hope,” said Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland. “And I think that’s what Representative Gant would ask.”

Gant said he knows it might take time before he sees the legislation through, but that’s why he’s starting the discussion now.

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