Tennessee Lawmakers Approve Wine Bill

March 5, 2014
‚ÄčNASHVILLE, Tenn. – After years of trying, the decision of whether grocery stores can stock wine now moves to the voters. The Tennessee Legislature passed a bill that would allow cities and counties that already have a liquor store or bar to vote on letting supermarkets, convenience stores or big box retailers sell wine, the Times Free Press reports. Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign the measure.

“This bill has been a long time coming,” said Bill Ketron, chair of the Senate Republican Caucus and one of the sponsors.

Once the bill becomes law, supporters will need to gather signatures on petitions in areas eligible to vote on changing the current law. “We're still in the beginning stages of trying to put together who'll be working on those in the various communities and what those campaigns will look like,” said Matthew Scanlan, a lobbyist with the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association.

The measure carries several concessions for liquor stores and wholesalers, namely that even after approval by a locality this year, the sale of wine in grocery stores wouldn’t be possible until 2016. Also, liquor stores would also have permission to sell things like lottery tickets, food products and drink mixes starting this summer.

Scanlan said that “there's a wave of places that are easier to do than others. It's harder for a big organization to have available sites at the same time. But places like Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Knoxville, the larger cities certainly, Murfreesboro, Clarksville, maybe there's an initial list of some of those that we plan on having the referendum on the ballot in November.”