Supermarket wine bill would give decision to local voters

Supermarket wine bill would give decision to local voters

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State Sen. Bill Ketron and State Rep. Jon Lundberg announced the proposed bill in Nashville on Thursday. (source: WKRN-TV) State Sen. Bill Ketron and State Rep. Jon Lundberg announced the proposed bill in Nashville on Thursday. (source: WKRN-TV)

NASHVILLE (WATE) - A new bill to allow Tennessee supermarkets and convenience stores to sell wine was announced Thursday in Nashville.

The proposed bill puts the option of wine sales in grocery stores in the hands of local voters on a city and county basis.

The new bill is sponsored by State Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro and State Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol. Both legislators are Republicans.

Lawmakers have made several attempts to end the exclusive right of liquor stores to sell wine in Tennessee, but each year liquor stores have successfully lobbied to table or kill the measures.

Opponents have argued grocery store wine sales would unfairly disrupt existing liquor store business and make higher-alcohol drinks more widely available to minors.

Under the new proposal, grocery store sales would be limited to wine with an alcohol content of no more than 18 percent. High-alcohol beer and fortified wine sales would remain only in liquor stores.

House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey have both stated their support for grocery store sales.

If the bill passes, cities and counties that currently allow retail package stores, liquor-by-the-drink establishments or both to hold a referendum on the sale of wine in retail food stores. The vote would be held during the next general election.

The authorization law would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

To be placed on the ballot, a petition for the referendum must be presented to the county election commission with signatures from 10 percent of the county's population that voted in the last gubernatorial election.

Supporters of the bill point out that 36 states, including six of Tennessee's border states, allow the sale of wine in retail food stores.

A recent federal court ruling which deemed liquor laws in Kentucky unconstitutional will soon put wine in food stores in that state.

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