Wine sales in grocery stores could see renewed charge
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV-AP) -
While a few Tennessee lawmakers believe the issue over wine sales in grocery stores should be left up to a vote by the people, it could once again trigger a huge fight on Capitol Hill.
Polls show overwhelming public support for the idea, but any plans to allow grocery stores to sell wine have never gotten the political support necessary to even make it out of legislative committee.
Now, some believe there is reason to expect a different outcome this year.
Bard Quillman owns Red Dog Wine and Spirits in Franklin, and he has big concerns about what could happen if the Publix next door started selling wine.
"I think I would lose about 30 percent of my sales," Quillman said.
Supporters in the state legislature say they know wine sales are what the public wants.
"I get a phone call. I get a text. I get an email from not only my district but all over the state saying, 'Please give us wine in grocery stores,'" said State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro.
Ketron said he plans to change his strategy a bit this year.
He is hoping the legislature will at least give the people in local communities the power to vote on this issue.
"All we're asking is to have a referendum to let people decide, as opposed to the members of legislatures voting on alcohol bills," Ketron said.
Under the bill taking shape before the legislature convenes next week, local referendums would determine if wine could be sold alongside beer in grocery and convenience stores around the state. In exchange, liquor stores could branch out to sell items, like beer, mixers, ice and snacks.
The measure could also end the current law that allows owners to operate only one liquor store in the state.
Wine store owners say the public might not understand the entire issue. Not only does Quillman believe it could kill small businesses in favor of large chains, but he also believes alcohol should stay heavily regulated.
"We're gonna fight it as hard as we can. We think we have a very good argument," Quillman said.
Both House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey have come out in support of wine sales in grocery stores.
In fact, Ramsey has said he plans to make sure the committees are stacked to give it a chance to make it to a full Senate vote for the first time.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.The Associated Press contributed to this report.