Senate committee OKs wine in grocery stores by 5-4 vote - WSMV Channel 4

Senate committee OKs wine in grocery stores by 5-4 vote

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Don't reach for that corkscrew just yet. The battle over wine sales in Tennessee grocery stores isn't over yet.

But, after years of debate, a bill that could allow wine in grocery stores is now getting some traction, as a Senate committee approved a proposal Tuesday that would let voters have the final say.

"I moved here from California, and I was shocked to not find wine in the grocery stores. It's just kind of an inconvenience," said local shopper Lela Altman.

That could soon change. The Senate State and Local Government Committee was the first Senate committee in five years to pass a bill that would allow local communities to hold votes on putting wine in their grocery stores.

While the committee vote was a huge step in the process, by no means does it put wine on the shelves at grocery stores. The measure will next have to be approved by the Senate Finance Committee before heading for a full floor vote.

Then, the governor would need to sign it.

"If the legislature passes it, our intention is to sign it. I haven't seen what it is," said Gov. Bill Haslam.

Finally, local communities would have to petition for the issue to appear on the 2014 ballot.

But grocery stores are optimistic.

"This is a great day for Tennesseans. The state and local government did something monumental today," said Jarron Springer, with the Tennessee Grocers Association.

Liquor store owners have fought against the issue hard, and they are determined to stop the bill in the halls of the capitol.

"If it turns out to be a marketing campaign to the general public, I don't think there's any question they'll win," said Chip Christianson, owner of a Nashville liquor store.

The next hurdle could come as soon as next week, but the proposal has the support of two of the heaviest hitters in the Legislature in Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville and House Speaker Beth Harwell of Nashville.

Statewide public opinion polls have shown strong support for supermarket wine sales.

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