Knoxvillians mixed on newest wine in grocery stores proposal

Knoxvillians mixed on newest wine in grocery stores proposal

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"It'd be fantastic, so I mean it would cut out a lot of time and traffic," Knoxville resident Sharlean Sewell said. "It'd be fantastic, so I mean it would cut out a lot of time and traffic," Knoxville resident Sharlean Sewell said.
"They would take the crème of the crop of all our top-selling products," Ashe's Wine & Spirits owner Thad Cox said. "They would take the crème of the crop of all our top-selling products," Ashe's Wine & Spirits owner Thad Cox said.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxvillians showed mixed reaction Thursday about the newest proposal to allow wine in grocery stores.

State Sen. Bill Ketron, of Murfreesboro, and State Rep. Jon Lundberg, of Bristol, filed legislation that would allow Tennesseans to vote on whether to allow retail food stores to sell wine.

If the bill is passed, it would let retail package stores and liquor-by-the drink establishments to hold a referendum on the sale of wine during the next general election.

"They would take the crème of the crop of all our top-selling products," Ashe's Wine & Spirits owner Thad Cox said.

Cox has owned the liquor store in West Knoxville for more than two decades and said wine is the top seller.

He said local shop owners won't have the funds to compete with chain grocery stores when it comes to gaining support from the public if the decision ends up in the hands of voters.

"The Krogers and Walmarts have the money to support those referendums, where small business guys like myself, we can't afford to battle that," Cox said.

But some people say if passed, the bill would make shopping more convenient.

"It'd be fantastic, so I mean it would cut out a lot of time and traffic," Knoxville resident Sharlean Sewell said.

Those who have lived in other states that allow grocery stores to carry wine said it's about convenience.

"Let's get this law changed as soon as we can so I can get back to buying wine in grocery stores," Knoxville resident Mark Kravig said.

The Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association released a statement saying it supports leaving the decision up to voters.

"Local referendums have been used for decades in Tennessee to determine retail package store and liquor-by-the-drink locations," the president of the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association said. "It makes sense to apply that same vetting process to wine in retail food stores."

But Cox said the bill could mean the difference between keeping his employees on the job and implementing layoffs.

"We'll have to look at our staff who we've had people here for ten years, for over six years," Cox said.

The Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association says statewide polls show that 70 percent of Tennesseans say they want to be able to buy wine and groceries in the same store.

The issue has prompted lobbying efforts from groups representing grocery stores and groups representing liquor stores.

Banners for one of those grocery store groups, Red, White and Food Voters PAC, flanked the podium at Thursday's announcement.

Red, White and Food is largely funded by grocery store chains Publix and Kroger. Each donated $10,000 to the political action committee last year.

Red, White and Food has donated to campaign funds for lots of state lawmakers, including Bill Ketron and Jon Lundberg.

Meanwhile Lundburg received a larger contribution from a group on the other side of the issue, representing wine retailers.

The information is made available through the state Registry of Election Finance.

To find out who's donating to your lawmakers, visit the state's website.

To contact your local state senator or representative about this issue, find your lawmakers and their contact information below.

State Representatives by District:

  • 15 - Joe E. Armstrong - part of Knox County (South Knoxville, East Knoxville, Mechanicsville, UT campus); (865) 357-1524, (615) 741-0768, rep.joe.armstrong@capitol.tn.gov
  • 12 - Dale Carr - part of Sevier County (Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, parts of Sevierville, part of Seymour); (615) 741-5981, rep.dale.carr@capitol.tn.gov
  • 19 - Harry Brooks - part of Knox County (eastern-most part, west part of Strawberry Plains, Corryton); (615) 741-6879, rep.harry.brooks@capitol.tn.gov, http://www.repharrybrooks.com/

State Senators by District:

  • District 12 - Ken Yager - Campbell, Fentress, Morgan, Rhea, Roane, Pickett and Scott Counties; (865) 285-9797, (615) 741-1449, sen.ken.yager@capitol.tn.gov, http://www.kenyager.com/
  • District 2 - Doug Overbey - Blount and most of Sevier County (except upper Northeast); (615) 741-0981, 1-800-449-8366 ext. 10981, sen.doug.overbey@capitol.tn.gov
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