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New bill proposed to allow wine in grocery stores sooner

Wine may reach local grocery stores by this summer, a year sooner than the originally planned summer of 2016.

Rep. Bo Mitchell has proposed a bill that would change the current law to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores starting this July rather than next.

Last spring, Gov. Bill Haslam signed a measure allowing it to be passed into a law, and the General Assembly allowed local counties to vote on it. 103,279 voters in 161 out of 162 precincts were in favor of it, according to Nashville Scene.

Mitchell said in The Tennessean, “The way the form of the bill ended up, a lot of us weren’t really happy extending it out to 2016 … We were told that was the only way it was going to get out of committee.”26; Wine; Chris Malone 2

Mitchell also said Tennesseans have spoken “loud and clear” about not wanting to wait another year to buy wine in grocery stores.

Some liquor stores have opposed the idea of moving the date up, since the delay’s intent was to allow them enough time to adjust their business models.

Additionally, the law allows liquor stores to start selling products such as cigarettes, groceries and party supplies beginning last July.

But not all state politicians are in favor of the move.

“If I go back [to Capitol Hill] and say, ‘It obviously passed overwhelmingly in every municipality … let’s change it up,’ my word and the value of my word in Nashville is going to go down considerably,” said Rep. Jon Lundberg in an article for Kingport Times News, speaking of his own bill last year that allowed almost 80 municipalities to vote on the referendums.

That bill also allowed package stores, who were then negotiating with the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, to sell glassware, mixers and T-shirts, as well as letting liquor wholesalers operate outside the largest cities in the state.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey also said he believed those negotiating for wine to be sold in grocery stores “gave up too much” in last year’s negotiations and that there will be many bills calling for the date to move up this year.

President and CEO of Food City Steve Smith brought up a potential solution to this problem, proposing a more gradual “phasing in” of allowing different grocery stores to sell wine at different dates.

“All of us are going to want to sell wine on July 1, 2016,” Smith said. “It’s a physical impossibility to be able to deliver that wine by the wholesalers. They don’t have a big enough warehouse to store it … They don’t have enough trucks to deliver it. We don’t have the manpower to set our stores all at one time.”

Smith said a more incremental solution would be less cumbersome and give customers a better experience, adding that wholesalers and retailers would be able to implement the wine in a more orderly fashion. Smith’s suggested start date is the beginning of next January.

Time will tell if any of these measures will go through and how much liquor stores and grocery stores will be affected by the change. TAS

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