Bill would allow voters to decide on wine sales - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Bill would allow voters to decide on wine sales

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Kroger spokesperson Joe Bell Kroger spokesperson Joe Bell
Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association President Josh Hammond Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association President Josh Hammond
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Kroger officials were in Nashville Tuesday lobbying to get a bill passed that would allow wine to be sold in grocery stores.

But there's a new twist uncorked in a seven year battle.

Wine is one of the few liquids that won't pass through a grocery store scanner. Though Kroger, other mega-grocers, and lobby state legislators want to change that.

"We're very optimistic about this year. The whole make up of the legislature is different," said Kroger spokesperson Joe Bell.

In the six previous years, lawmakers rejected various bills that would have put wine in grocery stores.

This year, a bill is on the table that would create local referenda to allow voters to decide.

"This country was founded on letting the people make the choice," said Bell.

Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association President Josh Hammond said it's just not that easy.

"This is not a simple yes or no solution for us," he said.

Hammond also owns Buster's Liquors & Wines. It's the largest store of its kind in the state.

"Wine's over half of our volume here," he said. "We pride ourselves on being a wine shop."

Steadfastly opposed to the bill, Hammond said no matter who gets to decide wine in grocery stores puts profits, jobs, and small businesses at risk.

"To change the rules and literally put us up against corporate giants like Kroger, and Walmart, and Costco...It puts us at a competitive disadvantage," said Hammond.

But Kroger spokesman Joe Bell said wine and spirit stores currently have an advantage by locking the market.

"They're not interested in someone else getting involved in that, but that's free enterprise. We'd like other people not to sell groceries too, but we don't get that option," said Bell.

Committees in both the state house and senate will consider this issue Monday and Tuesday of next week.

 

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