With more than 230 attorneys in Nashville and Memphis, Tenn., Birmingham, Ala., and Austin, Tex., Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP, assists clients in complex transactional, regulatory and litigation matters. The firm has built a national reputation for its work in healthcare, financial services, retail and hospitality, and this experience extends to manufacturing, real estate, technology and other industries.

The recent addition of William T. Cheek III, Robert D. Pinson, Olatayo O. “Tayo” Atanda, and Kimberly Faye to the Waller team means the firm will provide hospitality clients with a full-service experience. From the early planning and development stages, licensing, compliance or employment issues, to litigation, mergers and acquisitions, Waller has the depth and ability to provide exemplary service to hospitality clients.

Robert D. Pinson concentrates his alcoholic beverage legal practice on the manufacturing tier. He assists numerous distilleries, wineries and breweries across the United States with federal and state rules and regulations regarding advertising, marketing and commerce, and he works extensively with distilleries and breweries on licensing matters. Pinson has assisted with obtaining licenses for more than two-thirds of the distilleries in Tennessee, and he has licensed numerous distilleries, breweries and wineries in New York, California, Arkansas and Louisiana. Pinson formed the Tennessee Distillers’ Guild and assisted in the formation of the new Tennessee Whiskey Trail. In addition to his alcoholic beverage law practice, Rob represents clients across a wide range of industries with corporate matters and general business issues. He also has extensive experience assisting companies and individuals with complex federal and state tax issues. Pinson earned his J.D. in 2003 from the University of Tennessee College of Law and earned his B.A. in 1998 from Oberlin College. He also holds an LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

We caught up with Rob to get his expert insight into some of the legal topics that craft beer makers and drinkers in Tennessee want to understand.

TN Craft Beer: How big will the impact of the new federal excise tax cut be for Tennessee brewers?

Robert Pinson: It will be significant for both large and small breweries.  Smaller breweries will save up to $210,000 per year on their first 60,000 barrels.  Not many breweries in Tennessee even have 60,000 barrels in annual production, so this will significantly impact them for the positive.  For them, it is basically a 50 percent tax cut.

 TCB: What are the pros/cons of the 3-tier distribution system for consumers?

 RP:Pros toward a 3-tier (manufacturer, distributor and retail) system include quality control, increase in access to smaller brands, and local control.  Cons are higher prices, less consumer choice, and arcane laws.  I acknowledge the second items of those sets are a bit contradictory.  I state them on purpose to try and point out the constant struggle of smaller brands to enter markets.  I believe 3-tier both hurts and helps them, depending on the facts.

 However, there are certain laws that prohibit beer from skipping this second tier and laws that allow it – for example, beer brewers in Tennessee can self-distribute in their home county and they can also own an adjacent restaurant (known as a brewpub).

 TCB: Is there a threat for Tennesseans from alcohol conglomerates buying out distributors?

 RP: Yes.  The beer wholesalers have long been worried about InBev and MillerCoors trying to self-distribute by either buying up existing distributors or trying to enter the market themselves.  With the potential of InBev buying Coca-Cola, the power and influence the national players possess on the local level is only growing.  Recent mergers are only feeding that growth.  This is probably the biggest issue the beer wholesalers in Tennessee are focusing on right now.

 TCB: What are some of the legal challenges brewers face when starting their own breweries?

RP:The biggest challenges are not necessarily legal, but financial and access to customers.  One of the biggest challenges to new breweries is local zoning and distance requirements.  Finding a good place to brew is becoming more and more difficult these days.  Cities like Nashville are doing a good job and trying to ease the pressure growth of the city has created, but not everyone is making it easier.  People just seem to fear change.

For more information, please visit www.wallerlaw.com.