The case for seven-day liquor and wine sales

Hank Hayes • Feb 4, 2018 at 8:30 AM

State Rep. Gerald McCormick said he was hearing negativity about Tennessee lawmakers in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Shoppers, the Chattanooga Republican said, were upset they had to place their bottles of wine back on the shelf because by law they couldn’t buy wine on Sundays.

As a result, McCormick has re-introduced a bill to let package stores sell alcohol and retail food stores to sell wine during hours when beer is sold.

If the legislation passes, that means seven-day alcohol and wine sales — including on holidays  — would be allowed.

“Being from Chattanooga, I’ve seen firsthand that people will drive just over the state line into Georgia on Sundays because they have seven-day sales in Georgia,” McCormick said in testimony before the House State Government Committee.

“As you know, Tennessee is bordered by eight other states, five of which have seven-day sales already, which means we have a significant number of people driving over there and taking our tax dollars with them. Along those same lines, we are only one of 12 states nationally putting our local retailers at a disadvantage. We’ve got 38 or 39 states that have seven-day sales. … Government should be very careful about regulating a private company’s right when it wants to be open. That’s one of the basic issues here. It’s important to note this bill does not require anyone to be open seven days a week. It just gives them that option.”

Kingsport Republican Rep. Bud Hulsey, vice chair of the committee, admitted having trouble getting his head wrapped around the issue.

“I was pretty sure it would pass,” he said of the bill in a text message. “Others on my sub comm (committee) are playing close to their vest so I’m not sure at this moment.”

David Ozgo, chief economist for the Distilled Spirits Council, testified that the 670 retail liquor stores in Tennessee lost an average of $130,000 per year when the wine-in-grocery-stores law went into effect in 2016.

Allowing package stores to have seven-day sales would give them an additional $20-$28 million in sales, he said.

“For decades, retail stores had the sole right to sell wine and spirits,” Ozgo told the committee. “Many invested and built their stores based on this premise. … For many retail stores, wine represents up to 40 percent of their total business. … In the typical two-income household, convenience is a big factor in almost any buying decision. … It makes it much less likely that shoppers will take the time to visit their local retail store.”

For more, go to www.capitol.tn.gov. The bill’s number is HB 0758.

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