A Fluid Situation: Wine-In-Groceries Proposal Moving In Tennessee House

Dozens of people crowded in the hallway Tuesday awaiting the results of one of several committee meetings on the wine bill. Lawmakers have been wrangling over such a proposal for years. Photo by Daniel Potter / WPLN

Dozens of people crowded in the hallway Tuesday awaiting the results of one of several committee meetings on the wine bill. Lawmakers have been wrangling over such a proposal for years. Photo by Daniel Potter / WPLN

UPDATED: Push To Let Grocery Stores Sell Wine Clears Two Tennessee House Committees

EARLIER:

An effort to let Tennessee grocery stores sell wine is once again moving in the state legislature. Such a measure was killed last year in a House committee, which voted Tuesday to reverse course, effectively reviving the proposal.

A couple different pieces are now in motion: One would allow local referendums to permit wine in groceries, while another is sort of a compromise with liquor stores, letting them sell things like corkscrews, ice, and mixers. Backers are saying at some point those two pieces will be brought together.

So far opponents haven’t had much luck trying to procedurally stall the proposal, but it still has a ways to go, with another committee vote set for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Kroger, which has 120 stores in the state, happened to have a table set up at the legislature just outside one of the committee meetings.  Karen Kirchner is assistant store manager at a Kroger on Murfreesboro Road, in Nashville.

Kirchner says she had to break the news wine isn’t currently sold in Tennessee groceries to a disappointed holiday traveler just last month. In other states, she says people expect to find wine at their neighborhood grocery:

“They think we’re behind the times.  That they should be able to—Everyone else does it, everyone around us sells wine in the store, so they would like to see it here.”

The Deal

Starting this fall, towns or counties that have liquor stores or allow liquor by the drink could hold referendums to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores. Such sales wouldn’t actually start until summer of 2016. In the meantime, this summer, liquor stores could start selling other items.

The measure would affect grocery stores, big-box retailers and convenience stores, so long as they’re a minimum of 2,000 square feet, and at least 20 percent of their sales are food.

In certain cases liquor stores could delay wine sales at nearby groceries until 2017.

A Senate version of the measure is now set for a floor vote Thursday.

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