AP stock photo.
KINGSPORT — They’ve been shut out for more than five years, and now they’re ready to hit a home run.
The Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association (TGCSA) and Food City President and CEO Steve Smith feel 2014 is the breakthrough year for legislation that would allow localities to hold referendums leading to the sale of wine at the retail level.
“It’s not a vote to put wine on a grocery store shelf,” Smith said during a Wednesday meeting with members of the Times-News Editorial Board. “It’s a vote to let the constituents in that city or county vote. That helps win over the folks in some of the more rural communities who are anti-alcohol.”
TGCSA President Jarron Springer cited polls saying that close to 70 percent of respondents want wine in retail food stores, but the legislation gets a thumbs down from package store owners represented by the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association (TWSRA).
TWSRA members insist they’re tightly regulated small business people who would be put out of business if grocers and convenience stores are allowed to sell wine.
“This is not being driven by the public. It’s being driven by the grocer’s association,” said Chip Christianson, a TWSRA member and Nashville package store operator. “No one is marching on the Capitol saying, ‘Put wine in grocery stores.’... This is changing longstanding rules that have worked very well. A lot of us have made significant investments based on one set of rules they want to turn upside down...The vast majority of (the legislation’s) beneficiaries are out-of-state corporations, and the people hurt are Tennessee residents.”
Some kind of wine-in-retail-establishments legislation has been before lawmakers since 2008. TGCSA members plan to resurrect existing legislation that moved forward in the state Senate but failed in a House Local Government Committee by an 8-7 vote in the last legislative session.
For more on this story read Thursday's print edition of the Times-News or the expanded e-edition.