Senate committee passes bill on wine in grocery stores

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 12:40pm

After hesitating for a moment, Sen. Reginald Tate cast the deciding vote on the bill that paves the way for wine sales in grocery stores, pushing it further than it’s ever been on Capitol Hill.

With Tate's vote, the measure passed on a 5-4 vote.

The legislation, which would allow a public referendum to decide whether or not to allow wine sales in food stores, still has a long way to go for a chance to become law.

“It’s a war and they won the battle today,” said Chip Christianson, who serves on the board of the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association and argues the move would cripple local liquor stores. “I think that these senators dropped the ball on their responsibilities.”

The committee heard two hours of testimony Monday from large and small grocery retailers, liquor store owners and other stakeholders about the legislation. Political onlookers had known for days that the vote would be razor thin, but few knew which side the vote would fall on.

Before the vote, the nine-member committee narrowly rejected an amendment to sweeten the deal by allowing liquor stores to sell goods in addition to alcohol, like cigarettes, mixers and corkscrews.

Under state law, liquor stores can only sell wine and alcohol, and have the exclusive right to sell those products. Meanwhile, food stores can sell beer.

Proponents called the vote “monumental” to moving the legislation forward. The speakers from both chambers favor the legislation, although the bill has several more hurdles to go before it has the chance to become law. The legislation now moves to the Senate Finance Committee.  A House subcommittee, which has halted the bill for years, is hearing arguments for the bill today.

19 Comments on this post:

By: TharonChandler on 2/26/13 at 1:48

'Comparing' the sale of 'wine' to that of 'liquor' is like when they try and bulk 'Social security' and 'medicare' into the same sort of 'Entitlement' . Wine is like a fruity agricultural 'health-food' drink where 'Whisky' is like a potent elixor for Getting completely absurd. Similarly; 'Medicare' is like a welfare pymt to Doctors while 'social security' is the valued lubricant between the gears of local men and merchants . peace

By: Rasputin72 on 2/26/13 at 2:16

This is a blow that will drop a lot of wholesalers and liquor store owners out of the 1% group. I hope they have invested well or the next thing you know they willl be in the same category as those that voted for Obama.

By: JohnGalt on 2/26/13 at 2:44

You would think a news publication would report who voted how.

The four who voted no should lose their seats at the first available election.

By: pswindle on 2/26/13 at 5:01

Can't blame this on President Obama. This is straight from the heart of the GOP with Haslam at the center.

By: courier37027 on 2/26/13 at 9:18

Only when you can have a still in your back yard will true competition enter the equation.

By: Loner on 2/27/13 at 8:05

Good morning, Nashville.

This is nothing more than a small but powerful special interest, the 500 liquor store owners, versus the majority of voting-age Tennesseans. A special interest vs. the general interest.

According to reports, a lousy $100,000 was all that was needed in campaign "donations", from the liquor store owners, to thwart the will of the people the last time this thing went up for a vote....that's a tremendous bang for the bribing buck....your legislature sells out relatively cheaply.

And the spokesman for the liquor store gang, Chip Christianson, vice president of legislative affairs for the Tennessee Wine & Spirits Association, has the chutzpah to say: "“They’re, (The grocery stores are) just trying to circumvent the legislative process.” Look who's talking, Chip is the campaign-cash bag-man for the selfish special interest....git a rope!

The grocery store chains need to out-bribe the liquor store lobby....sadly, that's the only way that "democracy" works in this republic. A hundred grand is peanuts for the big grocery chains...pay up already!

By: Loner on 2/27/13 at 8:10

Interestingly, Tod Curry, the DWI, loaded gun on front seat, scofflaw lawmaker was one of the guys who put the kibosh to wine in grocery stores last time around....Curry wants guns & ammo in the grocery stores, not the fruit of the vine. Give Curry a massive wedgie and then air-walk him out of the legislative chamber...he's dirty....and he's an A-hole.

By: cannoneer2 on 2/27/13 at 8:12

Please spare us the whining from the liquor lobby! Their unbridled greed brought us here in the first place! If a bottle of wine didn't cost so much more here than the same exact bottle would cost across the state line in Kentucky for example, this might never have happened.

By: Loner on 2/27/13 at 8:14

Chandler an Galt are back? Oh happy days!

By: Loner on 2/27/13 at 8:25

Wine in the grocery stores, or whine in the liquor stores?...that, my friends, is the question.

By: Loner on 2/27/13 at 8:41

Price-fixing is a natural adjunct to any monopoly...you are being hosed by a handful of greedy merchants and a corrupt legislature...you can continue to sit there and suffer in silence, or you can make some noise...as John Boehner says, "Get off your asses!"

By: Loner on 2/27/13 at 8:57

If the news reports are true and the liquor store merchants paid just 100,000 dollars to bribe the TN lawmakers into submission, we can see that, with just 500 liquor stores operating on the state, a measly $200 per store is all that it took to defeat the will of the people. The protected merchants jack up their prices and get that money back within a few minutes...but the wine-lovers in the Volunteer state pay through the nose every day, so that these mom & pop sleaze bags can enjoy their comfortable, high-roller lifestyles.....as they say in the South, "Tain't right".

By: Left-of-Local on 2/27/13 at 9:47

I can't wait till this state grows the hell up and lets the CONSUMER (you know... the one who pays the salary of the lawmakers and the one who pays for all the items in stores and keeps these a-holes in business) decide how this should go.

Furthermore, I hope the prudes in the rural areas are beaten back by the cities and the state can TRULY grow up and have these products available everywhere they should be.

To be fair, we have to lift the ban on people owning a CHAIN of stores. There should be fair competition across the board, and the retarded (literal) wall between beer/wine/liquor MUST GO.

Now... can we PLEASE do all of this WITHOUT the compulsion to involve Jesus? Thanks.

By: Rocket99 on 2/27/13 at 10:56

I do like having the option of purchasing wine on grocery stores. I also like the option of purchasing mixers and various other bar related items while in the liquor stores. Don't understand why we can't have both.

If this passes and some local municipalities get it passed, what this will do is weaken the liquor lobby and their way too long hold on the legislature. It should bring better pricing, unless Kroger, WalMart, etc. also have to purchas their wine from the Lipman Brothers of the world.

Something else I think should happen is, all distributors are able to sell all alcohol related merchandise. True competition in the marketolace. Not the way it is now where you can only purchase Jack Daniels from distributor A and only purchase Jim Beam from distributor B. What goes on now is legal racketeering.

By: Loner on 2/27/13 at 11:19

This is easier than you think:

If the liquor store gang is paying the baggers a hundred G's, to keep their monopoly going, the grocery stores and the general public should combine their resources and out-bribe the bribers...pay the baggers a cool million, not a miserly 100 grand....beat these slugs at their own game....as the USSC has ruled, campaign donations are a form of free speech....SPEAK OUT!! with money....never mind trying to reform the system, just pay off the lawmakers and get your wine!

By: makesense on 2/27/13 at 12:18

The liquor store owners argue not to allow the big boys to come in and "kill" their business. If our elected officials took that stand, we wouldn't have Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc in our state- they have killed many small businesses over the years. The wholesalers are the ones to lose out the most- more people to hire (JOBS) and additional trucks to buy to handle the additional selling outlets- Bless their hearts.

By: Loner on 2/27/13 at 1:09

The self-described "free-market" Republicans who run TN are behaving like old-school Soviet socialists on this wine in grocery stores issue.

Listen to their propaganda:

"State, not marketplace, know what is best for citizen".

Joe Stalin would agree.

By: pswindle on 2/28/13 at 11:21

I just hate to see another go out of business sign. This is just the beginning. Grocery Stores in a few years will have their own section for liquors and other breweries for sale. This is the start of the demise of Liquor Stores.

By: localboy on 3/1/13 at 10:43

You may be right, pswindle, but I was recently in Florida and the local Publix (which had an aisle of wines) had not one but two liquor stores within a block radius. Evidently they've found a way to make it work, at least for some of them.