Cities or towns in 10 East Tennessee counties have alcohol-related ballot measures up for vote in November.
Towns in Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Fentress, Grainger, Jefferson, Monroe, Morgan, Roane and Sevier counties will all consider approving expanded alcohol sales in some way.
Some ballot questions are to approve the sale of liquor in package stores, or by the drink. Others, like Jefferson City in Jefferson County, will vote on whether to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores.
Tony Wiggins is the manager of Volunteer Spirits in Jefferson City – the first liquor store to open in the county after voters approved it more than a year ago.
“My brother and I saw the opportunity and decided to go for it,” he said. “It’s worked out pretty good for us.”
Volunteer Spirits has sold wine since they opened – now, Wiggins said he supports the expansion to grocery stores. He figures it will help increase his business by increasing the consumer base.
He said he’s also happy people will be spending their money in the county, instead of driving further away to buy alcohol.
“I think it’s odd, for so many years, the larger cities had it, and the smaller ones didn’t,” he said. “And I think finally people are starting to realize we don’t need to drive somewhere else.”
But not everyone is on board – across the street from Volunteer Spirits, someone has erected a sign that reads “Liquor Kills: The Blood of Jesus Saves.” And in Fentress County, Pastor Dale Walker is fighting expanded alcohol sales.
Fentress is currently a dry county.
“I hate alcohol with a purple passion, because of the damage it does to our society,” said Dale. “It is wicked.”
Walker is president of the Tennessee Pastors Network.
“Alcohol kills nearly three times as many people as guns do, 88,000 per year,” he added. “And where’s the outcry against alcohol?”
Still – Wiggins expects the expansion to pass in Jefferson City.
“A lot of people I think used to be worried about others seeing that they might drink, or have a glass of wine or something,” he said. “It takes a long time for those things to fade away. I think it’s just becoming a looser atmosphere.”