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Wine sales at grocery stores on table in Tennessee

October 26, 2009

The Kentucky Food with Wine Coalition has renewed its campaign to allow wine sales at grocery stores in Kentucky, and is hoping 2010 will be the year the measure clears the Kentucky legislature.

And Kentucky’s neighbor to the south is expected to address the issue, too, according to The Tennesseean newspaper.

Tennessee’s Joint Study Committee on Wine in Grocery Stores is scheduled to have its first meeting this week, and could take up to a year studying the state’s liquor laws to see if an overhaul is merited.

From The Tennesseean

“They’re asking a lot of questions, and I think that’s a good idea, but the basic concept of the way liquor has been sold is very normal for most states,” said Bard Quillman, a Franklin liquor store owner who also serves as a director of the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association. “I’m not advocating changes to the law that are intended to change the fundamentals of the law.”

The committee of six Republicans and four Democrats, which plans to deliver its recommendations to the legislature after next year’s elections, is taking on an issue that has confounded legislators the past two sessions. Behind the debate are two of the most powerful lobbying forces in the state, squaring off over an issue that has high stakes for both.

On one side are liquor store owners and their suppliers, which operate under a decades-old regulatory system that restricts competition and tightly controls what they can buy and sell.

On the other is the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association, a group that represents 700 independent and chain supermarkets and nearly 500 convenience stores.

“It’s going to be good business for lobbyists,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, the study committee’s organizer and sponsor of a bill that would allow grocery stores to sell wine.

In Kentucky, the Food With Wine Coalition pushed for the change during this year’s legislative session, but the effort never got off the ground with no bill filed before the session ended. Advocates for wine sales in grocery stores said that was due in part to the fact the state’s budget took top priority during this year’s short legislative session.

Luke Schmidt, a lobbyist for the coalition, has argued that allowing wine sales at grocery stores will increase wine sales overall, not just allow grocery stores to poach sales from liquor stores. Schmidt and the coalition estimate that the change would generate an additional millions in annual tax revenue for the state, and present added convenience for consumers.

Currently 34 states allow grocery stores to sell wine, and Tennessee is the only state bordering Kentucky that shares the ban.

Karen Thomas Lentz, a lobbyist for the Kentucky Package Retailer Coalition told the Messenger-Inquirer that the Food With Wine Coalition is overestimating the potential revenue impact, particularly given that the state collected only $14.8 million in wine sales taxes in 2009.

Thomas Lentz also said grocery stores are allowed to sell wine today, but must comply with the same security measures and limited access provisions that liquor stores do.

Check out more information from both sides – The Food With Wine Coalition has set up a Web site – www.foodwithwine.org – as has the Kentucky Package Retailer Coalition – www.wineingrocerystores.com.

Any thoughts on the issue?

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4 Comments
  1. Joyce Lee permalink
    January 11, 2010 12:49 pm

    My husband and I are very much in favor of wine being sold in grocery stores. We moved to Tennessee from Oregon where wine is available in all grocery stores and we found it very convenient. Wine is not “hard liquor” and should be available where beer is sold.

  2. January 15, 2010 1:24 pm

    I think we should be able to buy wine in grocery stores.My husband does also .

  3. James Savage permalink
    January 16, 2010 3:35 pm

    We would like to see wine sold in grocery stores. We go on vacation
    and we are able to buy wine in the grocery stores in other states. We
    enjoy the convenience. Wine is not a hard liquor. Beer is sold in gro-

  4. James Savage permalink
    January 16, 2010 3:42 pm

    We would like to see Wine sold in grocery stores in Tennessee.Beer is sold in grocery stores. Why not Wine? Wine is not a hard liquor. We go on vacation and are able to buy wine in grocery store in other states. Why not Tennessee?

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