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Wine sales issue heats up


Several bills that would allow wine sales in grocery stores are moving through the state legislature.

The bills would allow wine sales at retail food stores and provide wine and liquor stores “concessions,” through allowing them to sell beer and alcohol-related products such as ice and corkscrews.

However, the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association say the bill would kill the business at many local wine and liquor stores.

“The grocery lobby is desperately trying to entice wine and spirits retailers by acting as if it is compromising by making tiny concessions, like letting us sell corkscrews and bags of ice,” TWSRA president Josh Hammond said in a letter sent to wine and liquor store retailers.

“Do you know Tennessee wine and spirits retailers would have to sell 90 million bags of ice and over 30 million corkscrews to compensate for revenues lost to grocery wine sales?” asked.

And Knox County may be one of the most affected counties if grocery stores are allowed to sell wines.

Information disseminated on the grocery store lobby’s website, www.redwhiteandfood.com, has stated the larger metropolitan areas of the state will be most affected, because residents of those areas are the ones most likely to drink wine.


“Wine drinkers as a group are likely to: have a household income of $75,000 of more; have at least an undergraduate college degree and work predominantly in professional or managerial jobs,” the website states.

“This means that wine drinkers in Tennessee are most likely to be found in Shelby, Davidson, Knox, Hamilton, Williamson, Rutherford, Sumner, Montgomery, Wilson, Sullivan, Blount, Washington, Marshall, Anderson and Sevier counties.

“There are 39 other counties (Tennessee has 95 total) that have at least one liquor store. Stores in those counties will feel little impact from the change because the wine drinking population is low.”

The bill (HB 0406/SB 0316) would allow wine sales at retail food stores, which would include grocery stores but would not include “roadside markets,” vending machines or establishments that only sell tobacco, beer or gasoline.

The bill, if passed, wouldn’t apply in dry counties. It would authorize a licensed retailer to conduct wine tastings for customers, as long as those tastings didn’t exceed three servings of two ounces. Wine sales in grocery stores wouldn’t be permitted on Sundays.

The bill would abolish present state law that prevents a retailer with a license from selling alcoholic beverages from operating more than one such business. It has been in subcommittee discussion since it was introduced in February.

Another bill, HB 0559/SB 0317, would allow wine sales in grocery stores, but only in places where on-premise consumption has been approved.

It doesn’t allow wine sales in grocery stores where the sale of alcoholic beverages in retail package stores has been approved.

The decision of whether wine can be sold in grocery stores would be up to voters in municipalities through a referendum. These bills are being discussed in subcommittees in both the House and Senate.

Each of the above bills is co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, of Murfreesboro, and Rep. Jon Lundberg, of Bristol, both Republicans.

Ketron also co-sponsored another bill (HB 0052/SB 0087), along with Rep. Curry Todd of Collierville, that would allow wine and liquor stores to sell beer. That bill is progressing through both the House and Senate.

 

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