Wine in grocery stores passes; what's next?

(WBIR) Around 80 Tennessee towns, cities, and counties voted on whether to allow wine sales in grocery stores. In our area, it passed in all 22 places where it was on the ballot.

MORE: Wine in grocery stores passes in 23 E. Tenn counties

Now grocery stores will begin the process of making sure they are following everything the bill is asking of them.

First, they will have to apply for an additional license, known as "wine at retail food store licenses".

From there, they will be required to follow an abundance of new rules. This extra time gives liquor stores time to prepare to compete.

"We're looking to lose anywhere from 20 to 25 percent of our wine sales," Terrance Pate, Cedar Bluff Wine & Spirits. "We are trying to make that up by selling beer, we are trying to make that up by doing beer growlers, selling Coca Cola products or mixers, or cocktail garnishes."

This is something liquor stores couldn't do before. The previous law said supermarkets and convenience stores could sell beer containing up to 6.5 percent alcohol by volume. Liquor stores could only sell alcohol and lottery tickets. That changed July 1.

"As of right now, we aren't competing with the grocery stores," Pate said. "We won't until 2016. Right now it's just icing on the cake for us. It's just one more thing we can sell to generate some business."

But the moment the bill passed last night, grocery stores said all they could think about was getting straight to work.

"It's been a long process," said Randy Williams, Food City District Manager. "We are really pleased at the results of everything. It went really well and we are looking forward to getting to work on it now."

They have a while to prepare. The referendum says that wine can't be placed in grocery stores until July 2016.

"It's to allow us to adjust," said Pate. "They are allowing us to do so we can compete. We have always been the kind of business that has never been able to franchise. I think all those little laws affected a lot of the decisions on how we went to the table with the grocery stores."

Grocery stores will be applying for a new license very soon. Once they receive it, there are several things the bill states they must follow. Some of these include:

  • They will not be able exceed an alcohol content of 18%.
  • They are not permitted to sell wine between the times of 3-8 AM on weekends.
  • It does not state that wine cannot be sold at all on Sunday's, just as long as it's not before 12:00 on Sundays. The same as beer.

READ THE BILL HERE: Senate Bill 837

"We have already done this with our stores in Virginia," said Williams. "We have been able to sell wine there for years. As far as in Tennessee now, we'll go store by store, location by location and see what fits that store."

Once 2016 rolls around, the bill says wine will be marked up at least 20 percent. It will keep grocery stores from selling wine at lower prices than liquor stores.

"The mark up in beer in nowhere near what the mark up is on wine so the actual money or income that comes in the door is going to be a little bit less," Pate said.

Grocery stores located within 500 feet of a liquor store will not be able to sell wine until July 1, 2017, unless the store owner gives consent to start selling sooner.


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