The cities of Brentwood, Franklin, Fairview, Spring Hill and Thompson’s Station will all have the opportunity to vote on wine in grocery stores in this year’s November elections.
In March of this year Gov. Bill Haslam signed off on a referendum to allow grocery stores to sell wine once the residents under a city’s government had voted on the issue. Communities had to collect a number of signatures equalling ten percent of those that voted in the last governor’s race.
The deadline to file a petition with signatures from ten percent of a municipalities voters was August 21, and five Williamson County cities turned in enough signatures to get the issue on the ballot. Since the signatures must be from residents that voted in the last governor’s election, some checking work must still be done in order to verify that these cities will have wine in grocery stores on the ballot.
The debate in Tennessee about putting wine in retail food stores has been going on for quite a while, and many see the November elections as the final deciding factor in a battle between business and convenience. Local liquor stores are worried they will lose valuable business to the convenience of picking up a bottle of wine in a grocery store, and grocery stores see this as a valuable opportunity to bring more variety to their customers.
Part of the legislation gives a little grace to liquor stores by allowing them to sell things like shot glasses, gift bags, potato chips and beer.
“They will not get the same service if they get their wine at the grocery store,” says the Holiday Wine & Liquor store near the intersection of Royal Oaks and Murfreesboro Rd in Franklin. “Here the customer can ask questions and get the wine that is right for them, but they won’t get that at a grocery store.”
For a retail food stores to sell wine they will need to submit an application with the local commission, pay application fees as well as an annual license fee. Any wine sold in grocery stores cannot exceed 18 percent alcohol content.
After November, even if the community votes in favor of allowing wine in grocery stores they will still be required to wait until 2016 before they are allowed to sell wine in order to give liquor stores time to prepare for the changes.