Wine In Grocery Stores Wouldn’t Make Tennessee Liquor Laws Any Simpler

Signs like this are common in many grocery stores in Tennessee. Lobbyists for the state's major supermarket chains have been pressing for a public vote on whether they should be allowed to sell wine. A complex proposal working its way through the General Assembly would pave the way for local referendums on grocery store wine sales. Image: Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association

Signs like this are common in many grocery stores in Tennessee. Lobbyists for the state’s major supermarket chains have been pressing for a public vote on whether they should be allowed to sell wine. A complex proposal working its way through the General Assembly would pave the way for local referendums on grocery store wine sales. Image: Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association

WPLN’s Bradley George talks through wine-in-groceries with Andrea Zelinski, reporter for the Nashville Post and Nashville Scene.

If you’ve moved to Tennessee from another state, you’ve might have had that stunned, confused feeling the first time you stepped into a grocery store. You find yourself asking, “where’s the wine?”

State lawmakers have tried for years to allow supermarkets to sell Chardonnay and Merlot. They’re making a go of it again this legislative session. But it’s not as simple as telling grocery stores, “ok, you can sell wine now.” It’s a proposal with many moving parts, such as:

  • Requiring a 20 percent markup on all wine.
  • No Sunday wine sales.
  • If a grocery or convenience store is within 500 feet of an existing liquor store, they would have to seek permission from that store’s owner before they could sell wine.
  • Grocers could not sell “high gravity” beer (which has higher than 6.3 percent alcohol by volume). Supermarkets would also be forbidden from selling fruit-flavored wines, as well as wine with an alcohol content higher than 18 percent.

But before any of that, voters will have to approve supermarket wine sales in local referendums. Those could happen as soon as this fall, if the bill passes. But grocery and convenience stores would have to wait until 2016 before they can begin stocking wine on their shelves.


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