Haslam signs supermarket wine bill into law - WSMV Channel 4

Haslam signs supermarket wine bill into law

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After a long, drawn-out fight in the state legislature, a plan that will allow Tennessee grocery stores to sell wine is now in the books.

Gov. Bill Haslam signed the measure into law Thursday that requires voters to first approve supermarket wine sales in a referendum. And even after that, the earliest wine could be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores would be in the summer of 2016.

But a change may already be in the works.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said he believes shoppers will take issue with voting on a referendum this November and then having to wait nearly two years to actually get wine at a grocery store.

That's why he thinks the start date will be revised.

"I think the grocery stores were ready to agree to anything," Ramsey said.

Advocates for wine in grocery stores are now working to get the referendum on ballots quickly.

"We want to get this on the ballot for November of 2014, and we have to have so many signatures in each municipality to get that done. So that's the next step, but we feel very confident we'll be able to do this," said Kroger spokeswoman Melissa Eads.

Liquor stores have long fought against this bill, saying it would be damaging to businesses that started under a different set of rules.

"There's more to life than just convenience," said David Sealey, with West End Discount Liquors and Wines. "Corporations who have grocery stores can do centralized large buying and have cheaper prices. Drive the smaller guys out of business."

But under the version of the bill signed into law, wine sold in grocery stores will face a 20-percent markup, while the stores will also have to pay licensing fees.

The measure also allows liquor stores to begin selling items other than booze.

Haslam remained neutral on the issue while it was before lawmakers but had pledged not to block its enactment once it passed.

Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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