Grocery stores are hoping this is the year they'll finally be able to sell wine. However, independently owned liquor stores say they're worried they may not be able to recover if it happens.
"We really believe this is the year that we can make something happen where that is concerned," said Melissa Eads of Kroger. "Wine continues to be one of the most requested items in our stores. We're constantly hearing from our customers, 'Why can't I buy my wine in a grocery store?'"
In support of the referendum, Kroger officials point to a 2011 study by the Stonebridge Research Group claiming the sale of wine in grocery stores would bring between 1,500 and 3,500 new jobs to the state.
This week, state Sen. Bill Ketron said he hopes for a public referendum to come out of the 2013 General Assembly.
"Studies show it would mean $18 million in state revenues that would come in to Tennessee," said Eads.
Speaking form his business of 12 years, Bard Quilman of Red Dog Wine and Spirits in Franklin is concerned he'd have to lay off part of his staff of six if wine is allowed in grocery stores. He says he has extra reason to be worried with a Publix directly next door.
Ketron has said if the referendum passes, he'll work with liquor stores to allow them to sell drink mixers and ice. Quillman said that's not nearly enough.
"If I lost 20 to 30 percent of my business, in order to make the same amount of money that the liquor stores made before, we'd have to sell about 86 million bags of ice," said Quillman.
Quillman said he also feels liquor stores, with their one product, can better protect from underage buyers. Kroger argues that point.
"We card anybody who buys beer in our store," said Eads. "We would treat wine sales the same way. Everyone would be asked for identification."
Kroger officials now hope to leave the decision to the public, while Quillman says independently owned liquor stores don't have the money to make this a fair fight.
"There are about 600 people in the state of Tennessee that have gone into this business and gone under the state guidelines," said Quillman. "I don't know what the absolute consequences are. I know it's not positive."
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