Local liquor stores react to possible deal blocking wine in big

Local liquor stores react to possible deal blocking wine in big box retailers and gas stations

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Convenience stores and big-box retailers like Walmart will not be able to take advantage of the new deal in it's current form. Convenience stores and big-box retailers like Walmart will not be able to take advantage of the new deal in it's current form.
"The big winners are the grocery stores. The big losers are us, convenient stores, and the big-box retailers. In the end you can't make everybody happy," said Thad Cox. "The big winners are the grocery stores. The big losers are us, convenient stores, and the big-box retailers. In the end you can't make everybody happy," said Thad Cox.

By LAURA HALM
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - For years lawmakers have been kicking-around the idea of allowing grocery stores to sell wine and it's failed time and time again. On Monday we heard that the sides were very, very close to the latest deal: wine for grocery stores, but not convenience stores and big-box retailers like Walmart.

Liquor store owners in Knoxville we spoke with are not happy, to them this is a lose-lose situation. Representative Jon Lundberg says Walmart is the largest grocer in Tennessee and to not have wine in Walmart would defeat the purpose.

Wine bottles are David Sprouse's business, he's owned Pop's Wine and Liquor for nearly six years. "I got into this business to sell wine and liquor," he said.

He's heading to Nashville on Wednesday to learn more about recent discussions blocking big-box retailers from selling wine.

"If the grocery stores get it, that's going to be enough damage," added Sprouse.

But what's the difference between selling wine in a store like Kroger versus Walmart? Representative Jon Lundberg says if this bill passes, one deciding factor may be how much space is utilized for groceries versus other things that are for sale.

The next question is differentiating between retailers like Costco and Walmart, Representative Lundberg saying this ban brings up more issues than it resolves.

Owner of Ashe's Wines and Spirits, Thad Cox, says he's simply not on board, "The big winners are the grocery stores. The big losers are us, convenient stores, and the big-box retailers. In the end you can't make everybody happy," he said.

Though we're told by owners one compromise that's been thrown on the table is allowing package stores to sell related items.

"Forty-five percent of my business is wine sales. So if you put that in the hands of the grocery stores then there's no amount of ice or fruit or corkscrews I can sell to make up for the loss that I'm going to have," added Sprouse.

For shoppers it doesn't matter which stores are selling wine, convenience is all that matters.

"You don't have to get out of the car again and make another stop," said Knoxville resident Mary Johnson.

Walmart released a statement to 6 News saying: "The ability to purchase wine as part of a grocery visit is an added convenience for Tennessee consumers and an option our customers want. As one of the state's leading grocers, we are encouraged by the legislature's commitment to empower consumer choice and welcome efforts to move this issue forward in a fair and equitable manner that does not arbitrarily limit our ability to offer customers the convenience and product assortment they want."

Representative Lundberg says this bill is priority for many folks in Nashville and he thinks in the next three or four weeks we'll have some kind of resolution.

The final decision regarding this bill goes back in the hands of voters. It's up to cities and counties on deciding whether they want to sell wine in grocery stores.

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