By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
Table service at the Henry Horton State Park restaurant will include beer next year, according to the food and beverage director for Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
Beer and wine are already served at other Tennessee parks, and Marshall County's Beer Board on Monday authorized the state park at Chapel Hill to offer beer at its group lodge for conferences.
A permit to serve beer at the restaurant had been approved earlier, but it's not been used yet.
Wine service at HHSP is not currently possible because county codes don't even include a provision for wine and spirit shops. You can't pour before there's a store in the jurisdiction. As such mixed drinks aren't planned at the state park along the shores of the Duck River, said Doug Stephens, the park system's food and beverage director.
"We won't be serving keg beer," Stephens said during the Beer Board meeting in the county's Courthouse Annex. He attended with Terri Carter, general manager of Henry Horton Inn and Conference Center.
"It's better controlled if we do it by poured glass," Carter said.
Stephens said, "We're shooting for mid-December to complete training" of the wait staff. Training approved by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission includes lessons on responsible service and enforcement of state laws regarding the age of customers.
County Commissioner E.W. Hill Jr. moved to grant the park's beer service permit and the vote was unanimous.
Tennessee State Parks sell beer at all nine of its golf courses, including Henry Horton's course. That service at Chapel Hill started last year. Several courses have been selling beer to golfers for three to four years.
Beer sales at golf courses is an industry standard, according to TDEC spokeswoman Meg Lockhart, and so the state "began selling beer at our own courses to remain competitive and as part of our overall effort to provide additional customer services."
HHSP faced financial problems several years ago and before Gov. Bill Haslam was elected, the restaurant was encouraged to become profitable, or face closure. That was seen as having a domino effect of hurting other facilities at the park including campgrounds, the lodge, swimming pool and the golf course.
"While ensuring our golfers have beverage choices, we also created a revenue-generating opportunity," Lockhart said. "It's not unusual for golf courses to sell beer and, in fact, most golfers expect it."
Wine and/or beer, depending on local laws, is served at several state park restaurants, she said. It's created a revenue stream. Pickwick Landing was the first state park to serve wine at its restaurant, followed by Paris Landing State Park and then Montgomery Bell. Beer service started recently at Fall Creek Falls State Park's restaurant.
State park restaurant customers' photo identification cards are checked and the state does not sell beer or wine to minors, Lockhart said. Employees who serve or handle wine and beer must participate in and pass a five-hour training course approved by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.