Gov. Bill Haslam formally signed legislation Thursday that will let grocery stores sell wine, starting in 2016.
In a ceremony at the state Capitol, Haslam approved Senate Bill 837/House Bill 610, perhaps the most comprehensive overhauls of the state's liquor laws since the end of Prohibition in the 1930s. In addition to letting grocery stores sell wine, the measure will allow liquor stores to sell beer, snacks, memorabilia and other items, and it loosens restrictions on where wholesalers can locate.
Flanked by House Speaker Beth Harwell, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and one of the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Bill Ketron, Haslam signed the measure into law.
"Congratulations," he said simply. "It's done."
But the law maintains several key restrictions on alcohol. Sunday sales of wine will continue to be banned, and grocery stores will be able to sell wine only in communities that have approved bars or liquor stores. Just as they do with bars and liquor stores, voters would have to agree to let grocery stores sell wine in their communities through local referendums.
The law also mandates a 20 percent markup on wine, whether it's sold in grocery liquor stores.