Wine sales uncorks spirited debate, again - WKRN News 2

Wine sales uncorks spirited debate, again

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Critical budget debates rarely fill a state capitol committee room, but turn the talk to wine sales and its standing room only.

For the second year in a row, whether to allow wine in grocery stores has uncorked a spirited debate among the businesses and customers affected.

Grocery and convenience stores says its time for them to sell wine.  Liquor and wine stores say its not.

Grocers and market owners need a change in state law to satisfy shoppers like Johnny Mutina.

"I like to be able to buy wine for that dinner I am cooking. Sometimes that's all decided while I am roaming the aisles of a grocery store, then I have to make a separate trip," he said last year while browsing the beer section at a Kroger store.

His separate trip means traveling to a wine or spirits store, the only places allowed by state law to sell wine.

Tuesday, before the House State and Local Committee, the issue seemed to have fermented into a battle about stickers.

Those supporting grocers and convenience stores wore stickers that said, "Why not wine?"

Members of the Wine and Spirits Retailers Association countered with stickers that said, "Wine is not food."

Grocers and convenience stores feel they have shoppers on their side, so their lobbyist did most of the talking before committee members.

Jarrod Springer, the executive director of the trade group, touted projected tax revenue generated for allowing his group to sell wine.  

He said it "would provide an additional $16 million in recurring revenue for the general fund for the state and $11 million in recurring revenue for local governments."

The wine and spirits bunch countered with a different kind of argument.

"If this legislation is adopted, there is no question that some stores will close and people will lose their jobs," said Chip Christianson of the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Association.

Franklin wine store owner Bard Quillman took a blunter approach saying "this is a bad bill at a bad time."

Lawmakers must now decide if lifting the grocery ban on wine sales needs to age a little more, or remain on the legislative back shelf.

Sponsor aren't sure when they might introduce the bill for a vote.

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