Gatlinburg has long been known as a dry town within Sevier County in Tennessee. However, with the influx in tourism over time, the region had to reevaluate its alcohol laws to bring in more income from tourism. Now you can find beer and wine in grocery stores, and there’s a legal moonshine distillery in town.
With that said, can you walk around with alcohol in Gatlinburg? It’s legal to walk around with unopened alcohol that you purchased, but it’s illegal to walk around with an open container in Gatlinburg. Only a few cities in the U.S. allow this.
Keep reading to learn more.
Can you Buy Alcohol in Gatlinburg?
Although many regions of Sevier County are considered dry, making it very difficult to purchase alcohol, you won’t have a problem buying alcohol in Gatlinburg. You can legally purchase drinks like beer and wine in the grocery stores or head to the local moonshine distillery to grab a bottle of liquor.
For those looking to stock their liquor shelves, several stores in Gatlinburg sell hard alcohol. Once you leave Gatlinburg and venture into different parts of Sevier County, like Pigeon Forge, expect to have more difficulty finding a range of alcohol types to purchase. Many surrounding towns are still considered “dry” compared to many other regions of the United States.
Can You Walk Around with an Open Container in Gatlinburg?
Only a few cities in the United States allow open containers in the streets, and Gatlinburg is not one of them. If you’re looking to take your drink from one bar to the next, you’ll have to go to one of the following cities:
- New Orleans
- Las Vegas
- Hood River
With that said, the open container law in Tennessee within motor vehicles is quite specific. The law applies only to the driver of the car. Meaning, if you’re a passenger over the age of 21, you can legally consume alcohol within the Tennessee state lines. This does not apply to any other circumstance, and therefore, if you’re walking around the street with an open container, you may face legal consequences.
This all means that you can’t drink on the street in Gatlinburg.
Is There an Open Container Law in Gatlinburg?
There is an open container law that residents and guests of Gatlinburg must follow. Gatlinburg complies with the state of Tennessee’s open container law that states it’s illegal for anyone to walk around with an open container in the following settings:
- Public street or alley
- Public sidewalk
- Public park
- Public school ground
- Public parking lot
Basically, this covers any public space within the state. So, although you will find your fair share of distilleries and pubs in town, you must finish your drink before heading outside to avoid any legal problems.
If you’re stopped by the police with an open container anywhere in Tennessee, you may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which can result in a fine. While you’ll likely have to pay up to $100 and will have the charge placed on your record, this does not come with any risk of jail time.
Although this may not sound like a significant penalty, keep in mind that the police around Gatlinburg are very vigilant regarding public consumption of alcohol. You are very likely to be caught by the police if you’re breaking this law, as police are commonly patrolling for this exact reason.
Transporting Alcohol in Gatlinburg
If the alcohol you’ve purchased has not been opened, don’t worry. You won’t be charged with any misdemeanors if you’re carrying a closed bottle back to your home from the store. You can legally drive with alcohol in the car or walk on the street with a secured bottle of liquor.
If you’re concerned about transporting alcohol, try to avoid breaking the bottle’s seal before you’re going to be transporting it in public. That way, if you’re stopped for any reason, you can prove that you were not consuming the alcohol in a public space. This is a great way to keep yourself safe from any misunderstandings with law enforcement between your moonshine tastings.
The History of Moonshine in Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg has a long history of distilling moonshine; however, it has not always been legal. It is thought that many distillers hid their moonshine in the caverns of the Smoky Mountains during prohibition. This would have been an ideal spot due to their remote location. These caverns are now used for tours; however, guides still highlight the parts of the caverns that were used to make and store liquor.
Moonshine became legalized in Tennessee in 2009, at which point several distilleries opened up around the state. Many of these are in Gatlinburg, making for a significant tourist attraction.
Tourists from all over the country flock to the town for their $5 moonshine tastings. Since these tastings have increased in popularity, the liquor has become more varied. Today, many distilleries create moonshine flavors like apple pie, pina colada, and sweet tea. These offer a unique tasting experience for those who come to taste the history of moonshine.
Interestingly, one of the countries’ hotspots for moonshine is also one of the regions with the least alcohol consumption; however, over time, the region is becoming less dry due to the money and demand from tourists who want to taste liquor and have alcohol with their meals. This is what majorly pushed the town towns in Sevier county to begin normalizing alcohol consumption and selling beer and wine within most restaurants in the region.
On your next trip to Tennessee, make sure to stop through Gatlinburg for a unique experience in the historic town. Although you cannot walk around with open containers of alcohol like you can in places like New Orleans or Las Vegas, you can purchase their popular moonshine bottles to consume on private property.