What’s in the Wine in Grocery Store Bill?

Reporter: Chris Davis

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Next week, the Tennessee General Assembly is expected to debate the “Wine in Grocery Stores” bill, that would allow stores like Kroger and Walmart to sell the adult beverage.  However, there are a lot of misconceptions about what the law actually does.  I read through both the House and Senate versions of the law, and these are the main points.

1) The law establishes a county referendum, meaning even if it’s passed, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to rush out to the grocery store and get some fermented grapes.  Your home county will likely vote on the measure in a referendum next November (if it passes).

2) The law doesn’t apply to gas stations, only grocery stores.  The bill also clarifies that wine cannot be sold in roadside produce stands or vending machines either.

3) The same liquor cut-off times are in place for wine. Grocery stores will be forced to stop selling wine from 3 am to 8 am on Monday through Saturday and 3 am to noon on Sunday.

4) The same liquor license rules apply.  Grocery stores will have to submit applications for licenses to carry wine in their stores.  They will have to send their employees to vendor training programs to sell the wine and will have to pay annual fees just like liquor stores.

****5) There is nothing in the law currently benefiting liquor store owners. This is the big one.  When I spoke to Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell last Fall, they both indicated that they might be able to work something out with liquor store owners to expand what they are allowed to sell, to make up for their lost revenue coming out of this law.  Currently, there is nothing in either the house or senate bill that does that.  This could prove economically fatal to all of the local liquor stores around Tennessee.

The Lieutenant Governor’s office is planning for the bill to reach the Senate floor next Thursday January 30th.  He is highly optimistic, along with sponsoring Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), that this will be the year the bill finally passes.

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