Lawmakers believe most Tennesseans will support wine in grocery stores

8:15 PM, Jan 31, 2013   |    comments
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A proposal to allow supermarkets and convenience stores to stock wine would continue to limit sales of high-alcohol beer and fortified wines to liquor stores.

State Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro and fellow Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol on Thursday introduced their bill to end the exclusive right of liquor stores to sell wine in Tennessee. Grocery store sales would be limited to wine with an alcohol content of no more than 18 percent.

The measure would put the option of whether to allow wider wine sales to voters in local cities and counties. The Republican House and Senate speakers support the change.

"Rep. Lundberg and I strongly believe that Tennesseans deserve the opportunity to vote on this issue. If you're not buying wine where you shop for food you don't have to vote for it. We think that a lot of Tennesseans will vote for it," said  Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro.

Here in east Tennessee, the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association's "Red White and Food" campaign is back in full swing.

Local grocery stores have set up displays that answer questions about wine availability, and keep shoppers informed about the latest legislative movements on the issue.

"Remarkably, most people are excited to see that they have something at least be talked about in putting wine in stores. We have customers that want to do all their complete shopping all in one place and see that if they could pick up their bottle of wine in doing that, that it would be a really nice convenience for them. And moms that don't necessarily want to drag their children into package stores, this is a more family-friendly environment for those purchases," said Stephanie Turner, Kroger's Special Events Coordinator.

Opponents argue the change would unfairly disrupt business at established liquor stores, and make higher-alcohol drinks more widely available to minors.

David Purpis, the owner of Farragut Wine & Spirits argues the change would take business away from small, local businesses and give it to big companies.

"It's a David and Goliath issue -- major corporations against small business," he said. "They're making a grab for some revenue and that's coming out of us, the small businesses' pockets, our employees. And we live in the community. We spend our money here. The items we purchase go back into this economy, and our profits go back into it. If it (revenue) goes back to a major corportation it's going to shareholders all over the world."

Senator Ketron says the earliest the bill could come up in a Senate committee is February 26th.

If the law passes, it would take effect on January 1, 2014, and local referendums could be held after that date.

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