NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — The “great beer divide” at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion appears to have been bridged thanks to a law that gives a much broader meaning to “on premises” sponsored by two Tennessee legislators serving Bristol.

Whether it opens the taps for lots of duplication around the state remains to be seen, but the law isn’t specific to Bristol or Rhythm & Roots.

“My real intent was just with Rhythm & Roots, but technically it will be in effect statewide,” senate sponsor Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) said Monday.

Last year, festivalgoers at Bristol Rhythm & Roots could grab a to-go beer from stores or vendors inside the music festival’s designated area and hit the streets — but only in Virginia.

Walk or weave your way to the south side of State Street and you were violating Tennessee law. Meanwhile, proprietors on the Volunteer State side could only watch in envy as their commonwealth counterparts opened the taps and filled their cash registers.

“It’s probably not the message we want to send to tourists and folks visiting, that they’re subject to arrest if they wander across the street,” Tennessee Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) said.

So at the behest of Rhythm & Roots’ organizers, Lundberg sponsored Senate Bill 2270, with John Crawford (R-Kingsport) carrying the companion bill (HB 2514) in the House.

What they came up with after working with the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) was a new law that allows festival operators, non-profits and other organizers to create a “premises” for their event, then apply for and receive permission for licensed alcohol sellers to sell beer and other beverages inside their businesses for consumption anywhere within the “premises.”

The bill passed the House 63–18 and the Senate 26–2.

In the case of Rhythm & Roots, this means that within the festival’s restricted area, people of age will be able to buy beer or drinks at Tennessee businesses just like they can at Virginia ones, provided those businesses are on a list Rhythm & Roots organizers submit and get approved in advance.

The city or county involved also has to approve the designated area and can impose security and other restrictions such as the times that consumption is allowed. Drinks must be served “in a glass or cup identifying the entity selling the alcoholic beverages or beer for on-premises consumption,” the law reads.

The festival operator, non-profit or organizing entity doesn’t have to sell beer or alcohol itself, but it alone is authorized to make such an application.

Lundberg said he worked closely with both Will Wampler, a counterpart on the Virginia side who gave details on their law, and with the state ABC.

“They said if we tweak it this way and we tweak it that way, it could really work well statewide,” Lundberg said. “They like policies that are standard everywhere. It makes it much easier.”

Despite the fact that area events like the Little Chicago Festival in downtown Johnson City or even Kingsport’s Fun Fest could conceivably work toward utilizing the law, Lundberg said he’d be surprised to see widespread use.

“The ABC didn’t think it would be utilized a lot,” he said. “If you wanted to do that at Funfest you would really have to change the way Fun Fest went. You’d have to put up fences and things. That probably wouldn’t be as important to Kingsport.”