Kingsport Times News Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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Wine-in-stores vote may occur in November

March 29th, 2014 5:46 pm by Hank Hayes

Wine-in-stores vote may occur in November

Signs at Food City's entrances thank Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey for his help passing legislation to allow voters to decide whether wine should be sold in grocery stores. Photo by David Grace.

If organizers get their way, all three Tri-Cities and other Northeast Tennessee localities will get a chance this November to vote on whether wine should be sold in grocery stores and other retail outlets.

Food City President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Smith and others have confirmed petition drives will be assembled statewide to put the wine-in-grocery-stores measure on the November ballot.

"We've got the perfect place to engage folks at our stores ... to have petition drives as time goes on," Smith said. "I'm sure it will be different from town to town, from Clarksville to Murfreesboro to Memphis to Bristol. ... It may not all be the same strategy, but I think it will be what works in different communities.

"We think November is fine. If we happen to miss November based on the way the law is written, there's still plenty of time to get it done ... but we are going to shoot for November."

In response, the organization representing Tennessee package stores indicates competing against these wine-in-grocery-stores referendums will primarily depend on local retailers' resources.

"The Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association (TWSRA) simply lacks the financial capability to wage a statewide media campaign against well-funded grocery chains like Walmart, Kroger and Costco," TWSRA President Josh Hammond said in an email. "The TWSRA will work with local retailers to raise awareness about the unintended consequences of liberalizing alcohol laws in the hopes of educating our loyal patrons who believe the state should be doing more to help Tennessee-owned small businesses than catering to out-of-state interests. ... So, it now comes down to the voter and we believe Tennesseans are getting more than what they bargained for. ... Putting wine in grocery stores has quickly turned into wine in gas stations ... wine in drug stores ... and wine in every corner market. Who won't be selling wine is the big question."

For an expanded version of this article, please see Sunday's print edition or our expanded electronic edition.

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