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Tucker Herndon and Bonelaw Team Overcome Hurdles to Open George Jones Museum

Legislature Honors George Jones with New Liquor Bill

Country music fans can now celebrate the life and legacy of George Jones, one of country music’s greatest artists, at the George Jones Museum, thanks to his wife, Nancy Jones. The newly renovated George Jones Museum opened its doors on 2nd Avenue with a red-carpet event on April 23rd, 2015. The grand opening date was set in stone from the time Nancy first met with attorney Tucker Herndon. Nancy wanted the Museum to open on the second anniversary of her late husband’s death. What ensued in those six short months is what Tucker calls a “helluva ride.”

For Nancy to open the newly renovated George Jones Museum, Tennessee laws had to be rewritten. She wanted to open a museum to celebrate the life and legacy of George Jones, “The Possum,” and create a stand-alone restaurant and rooftop bar, a state-of-the-art event and catering facility, and a retail package store to sell George Jones’ own White Lightning Moonshine and vodka — all of which were achieved. With the help of lobbyists at Windrow-Phillips Group, Tucker and fellow Bonelaw attorney Will Cheek worked to draft legislation, secure sponsors for the proposed bill, ran it through committees in the House and the Senate at the State Legislature, and got the bill passed and signed, all within a few weeks. Most liquor bills that aren’t favorable to wholesalers and retailers immediately die on the floor, but this particular bill received more votes than any other liquor law in the last 40 years. Tucker credits Nancy Jones’s personal involvement at the Legislature as the reason why.

“I brought Nancy to the Hill. We created an ‘office’ by a blue trashcan at the end of the hall in Legislative Plaza so she could talk to our state senators and representatives about this bill. When she began telling them stories about George, they became immediate fans,” he said.

While Tucker and the Alcoholic Beverage Team at Bonelaw were working around-the-clock drafting legislation, multiple beer and liquor license applications and proper state and local registration/compliance requirements, he and Kirk West were also going through checklists of everything else that had to be done. That included meeting with the health and fire departments, making sure the building passed codes, and guiding plumbers, electricians, and restauranteurs to carry out Nancy’s wishes. All of this took place in the middle of a total rehabilitation of the 50,000+ square-foot building.

One of the takeaways Tucker has from this experience is to do whatever it takes to get the job done for your client.  Because of a change of plans, deadlines were a moving target.  One afternoon, when the final beer permit application needed to be filed, a snag in the process could have kept that from happening, thus delaying the grand opening of the Museum. Tucker grabbed the paperwork, along with paralegal Jennifer Maxey, jumped into a cab, and arrived at the beer board two minutes before they closed for the day. The stars aligned, and the beer and dance permits were filed and accepted despite such short notice.  “These are things they don’t teach you in law school . . . but man, it has been an incredible journey,” he said.

The George Jones Museum prides itself for having the best rooftop bar, restaurant, retail store, top-notch catering, event space, and museum, which boasts thousands of artifacts ranging from musical instruments and stage outfits to rifles, awards, and the 1954 cherry red Chevy truck with a custom “Possum” paint job. And that state law that the Bonelaw team helped change? Well, it allowed the purchase of official George Jones White Lightning Moonshine and George Jones vodka to be purchased on-site.

“It’s been great working with Nancy on this project,” Tucker said. “We are excited the restaurant, bar, and museum are open to the public and that we had a hand in helping Nancy achieve a few of George’s dreams, including the ability to sell White Lightning Moonshine. Most importantly, the facility combines all aspects and gives others the chance to get a glimpse into a life that shaped so much of country music.”

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