So you’re having a fundraiser or some other special event and you want to serve beer? There’s a permit for that. Even if the beer is “free” to your attendees, you need to get a permit. The permit can be for up to 30 consecutive days. If you’re opening a restaurant or bar and need a permanent permit look here.

  1. Download the instructions and application from the Memphis City Permit Office website.

  2. Go to the TBI site and order a background check. It costs $29 and they’ll email you the results within a couple days, which you can forward to the permits office at If you haven’t received the results within a couple business days just call them at 615-744-4057. And don’t worry — I’ve got more than a few infractions on my report and had no problem. The board is only concerned with crimes of “moral turpitude.” An ABC card or Beer Vendor Card / Affidavit from the Permits office will get you around this requirement (so if you think you’re going to do this again, go ahead and pay the $21 for the card while you’re there).

  3. If your event is within 100 feet of residential home, then on your application you’ll need to get the signatures of five residents who live adjacent to your event.

  4. You’ll need to present something that shows you have a right to use the place of your event. This might be a lease, use agreement or deed.

  5. If you want to use a building you’ll need to provide a copy of the Certificate of Occupancy and the lease or use agreement giving you the right to use it.

  6. If this is a “pop-up” type event in a building and you don’t have a Certificate of Occupancy for the building you’ll need to apply for a Temporary Use Permit. The building department grants these at its discretion, subject to review by the Board of Adjustment. Section 2.8 of the UDC as modified by the TN Brewery / Truck Stop amendments sets out the rules. To start the process email the building official (you might want to copy OPD Director and Division Director

  7. If you want to close down any streets, you’ll need a Special Event Permit from the City. Basically this means talking to the police (and maybe paying them for help directing traffic), having insurance and submitting another application.

  8. Once you’ve done everything above, bring your documents and your $100 (plus another $3 if you want them to notarize your application) to the City Permits office and be very nice to the folks there who will help you.

  9. If your application is in order, you’ll be scheduled to appear at the next Beer Board meeting. The Board meets in the Council Chambers of City Hall on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 9 a.m. Note that the deadline for each meeting is the Friday before at noon.

  10. When it’s your turn to stand before the Board and press your application, after you are sworn in and provide your full name and address you’ll be asked a few questions for the record. Below is a sample of what to expect with some answers I’ve provided successfully in the past:

    1. Tell us a little about your event please.

      1. This is a temporary event for the next 30 days in which a group of citizens has put together a beer garden in the historic Tennessee Brewery in an effort to save the building from demolition. We’ll be open four nights a week to the public, and will have music and food trucks.

    2. How will you insure minors are not served alcohol?

      1. All of our bartenders will be ABC certified and will be checking identification prior to any sale of alcohol.

    3. How will you insure nobody leaves your event with alcohol?

      1. The event will have adequate enclosures, with security guards at each of the entrances, making sure no one leaves with alcohol.

  11. If the Board grants your application you can pick up your permit the next day at the Permits Office. Remember, sales of beer are subject to state and local sales tax so you’ll need to report sales and remit taxes due to the Tennessee Department of Revenue.