In testimony before the Tennessee House State Government Committee, Old Hickory package store owner Joe Hobbs said he used to have no worries about the future of his store as long as he went along with the laws enforced by the Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC).
“Every retail store owner was totally aware they were restricted to selling two items: liquor and wine,” he testified. “We could not advertise without ABC’s approval. The state had full control of the operation of our package stores. … Family-owned package stores were benefiting from the growth of wine sales. Up until that time, the grocery store industry had no desire to sell wine in Tennessee. They did not want to waste the valuable shelf space in their stores. A few years ago, the billion-dollar grocery industry started to take interest in the wine business. They didn’t just want a piece of the action. They wanted all of the action.”
Wine in retail food stores sales began in 2016, and now legislation has been introduced to align the hours of package store sales and wine sales with the hours of beer sales.
“It is difficult for our industry to adapt to these changes and make a profit,” Hobbs noted. “Several liquor stores have seen their profits dwindle tremendously and are being forced out of business.”
Statewide, package stores lost $90 million last year, according to Hobbs.
“Sunday sales will be one more nail in the coffin for small business owners. … If Sunday sales are so important, why do we have time limits on the days products can be sold? … We don’t need to sell alcohol 24 hours a day. … I predict that within six years, (retail food stores) will be lobbying to sell liquor,” Hobbs told the committee. “Why not? They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Brooke Porter Hawkins, a third generation owner of a liquor store in Lebanon, said she sells better wine and gives better service than retail food stores.
“While I sell much better wine and provide better service, our wine sales are down. … None of my employees are looking forward to working on Sunday,” she said. “It would be a 15 percent increase in labor expenditure. … It seems to me there will be no net benefit to our community and society at large if we have Sunday sales.”
David Purvis closed his Farragut Wine and Spirits store in 2017. He said he had $5 million in sales in 2016, but after retail food stores were allowed to sell wine, he lost $2 million in one year.
“The stores that are making it probably own their building and have no debt,” Purvis stressed. “Sixty percent of my sales were wine.”
For more, go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The bill’s number is HB 0758.