Legislation would let public vote on wine in grocery stores - WKRN News 2

Legislation would let public vote on wine in grocery stores

Posted: Updated: Jan 31, 2013 04:50 PM

State Sen. Bill Ketron, of Murfreesboro, and Rep. Jon Lundberg, of Bristol, filed legislation Thursday that would let Tennesseans vote on whether to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores.

"Why is this the year? Why is it going to happen now?" asked Rep. Lundberg. "I think you get to that junction of the people are done. They've said we had enough; it's time to move this forward. The legislature is getting that message as well, it's time."

The battle over wine in grocery stores has been ongoing for seven years.

If the bill is passed, local municipalities that currently allow retail liquor stores and liquor by the drink establishments could vote on whether to allow wine sales in retail stores.

"Rep. Lundberg and I strongly believe that Tennesseans deserve the opportunity to vote on this issue," Sen. Ketron said in a release. "Currently, municipalities decide whether to allow retail package stores or liquor-by-the drink in their communities, so it makes sense to also take the issue of where to sell wine to the voters."

In order to place the referendum on the ballot, a petition must be presented to the county election commission where the referendum is to be held.

The petition must include signatures from 10% of the county's population that voted in the last gubernatorial election.

Thirty-six states, including six that border Tennessee, allow the sale of wine in retail food stores. Kentucky will soon join the list due to a recent federal court ruling which deemed its liquor laws unconstitutional.

Brad Quillman, the owner of Red Dog Wine & Spirits in Franklin, has a lot of questions.

"The question is who's going to drink this wine?" asked Quillman, "Who's going to buy 30 million more bottles of wine?"

Quillman is referring to a study that reported Tennessee would benefit from an additional $5.2 million dollars in tax revenue, or an additional 30 million bottles of wine sold, if wine was sold in retail stores.

"The answer is that people drink what they drink," said Quillman. "You're not going to get people to begin drinking simply because you can get it in 23 locations versus three."

Quillman told Nashville's News 2, if the issue for consumers is convenience, most liquor stores, like his, are located right next to, or very close to, grocery stores.

"Anything that you do for a business where you're going to take possibly 25 to 30% of their business away and really not give you anything or make that money up, it's going to have an effect."

Quillman, who employs seven people, said he is worried what would happen if this bill passes.

"Would people go out of business?" he asked, "I don't know, but would it be very difficult on Tennessee businesses that have played by the rules? Yes."

If the bill is passed, the new law would go into effect on January 1, 2014.

The earliest municipalities could get this on the ballot would be in November of 2014.

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