Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Cry Foul on Wine in Grocery Stores Bill
Locally-owned businesses point to out-of-state corporations that are driving the move to weaken state's system for alcohol control
NASHVILLE (January 31, 2013)– Tennessee business owners representing nearly 600 local businesses that employ 3,000 citizens called on legislators to oppose a bill that would allow communities to vote via referendum to allow wine sales in grocery and convenience stores. The Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association (TWSRA) said the legislation, announced today by Senator Bill Ketron and Representative Jon Lundberg, is a ploy by out-of-state corporations to circumvent representative government and split the state on an issue of critical importance to the public health and small businesses of Tennessee.
"These out-of-state chains like Walmart and Kroger are determined to get more profit out of the state of Tennessee, no matter what the cost," said Chip Christianson, vice president of legislative affairs for TWSRA. "This is a highly complex issue that has enormous ramifications on the public safety and small business of our state. Tennessee legislators have studied it intensely for 5 years and still have not found a viable solution. So now the out-of-state chains want to bypass them and take it for a simple yes or no vote. This is not a simple issue. Legislators must realize what these corporations are trying to do and stop them in their tracks."
Wine and spirits retailers say that regardless if wine in food stores is decided on the state or local level, it is a measure that will radically change the state's system for controlling and selling high-proof alcohol and the welfare of local communities. A coalition of more than 125 police chiefs and sheriffs in large cities and small towns across Tennessee has also come out in strong opposition to the legislation.
In announcing the bill, the grocery corporations acknowledged that the wine they wish to sell will have up to 3x the alcohol content of the beer currently on their shelves. Christianson said this vast difference in alcohol content is the reason that the state put wine in specialty retail stores to begin with. This is not a product that should be readily available on the shelves of grocery and convenience stores, said Christianson. He said the wine these stores will be allowed to sell will not only include higher-end bottles, but also the low-end and box wines that young people regularly use to become quickly intoxicated.
"This issue has far more implications than most people realize," said Christianson. "There are a range of complications to this bill that impact the way high-proof alcohol is controlled, current rules by which current wine and spirits store must abide, and ultimately the well being of our communities."
"It's disturbing to think these out-of-state corporations are working to bypass our legislative system," Christianson continued. "They are skilled marketers and regularly convince consumers to buy their products whether they're good for them or not. Now they'll be using that same marketing money and power town by town to convince citizens that allowing high-proof alcohol on their shelves is good for the community. But really the only thing it's good for is padding the bottom line of these out-of-state chains."
Currently there are nearly 600 wine and spirits stores in Tennessee that employ more than 3,000 Tennesseans. By law, these stores must be owned by Tennesseans.
"Tennessee wine retailers have owned and operated our shops for years. We feel a sense of responsibility to the health and well being of our state. We give back to our local communities in both tax dollars and charitable contributions. We work with local law enforcement to make sure our towns and cities are safe," said Christianson. "The state of Tennesseehas put considerable time and resources into promoting our local farms, restaurants and industries. Local wine retailers and our employees are also central to our state's economic health. We call on legislators to see through the tactics of Walmart, Kroger and other out-of-state chains and stand together for the well being of our state."