Hiccup May Delay Wine Sales In Grocery Stores

Posted at 5:04 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-15 18:26:05-05

Shoppers were supposed to be able to buy wine in many Tennessee grocery stores on July 1, but there has kind of been a hiccup in the process.

Unless state lawmakers pass new legislation, store goers may be waiting a little longer.

According the legislation that passed two years ago, it will no longer be against the law to sell wine in grocery stores starting July 1.

The problem: the stores may not be ready.

"The public absolutely wants to be able to buy wine where they buy food, and they're expecting to be able to do so on July 1, so if this legislation doesn't pass they're going to be disappointed," said Rob Ikard with the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association.

State lawmakers have been scrambling to pass new legislation to work around an unintended issue.

Technically, July 1 is the first day grocers can obtain a license to sell wine from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

They can also start selling, but it's not realistic.

"You're going to have 450 or 500 grocery stores obtaining their license on July 1, and it would take weeks the wholesalers to be able to get wine out to that many retailers," Ikard said.

"You know if you had to wait it would be way up in October or November by the time they got wine in grocery stores," said Murfreesboro Republican Senator Bill Ketron.

Senator Ketron and other state lawmakers have introduced legislation letting grocery stores order the wine before they get a license.

To do that, they'll need a letter of approval from the ABC showing they'll get a license July 1, and wholesalers can start delivering wine to the store.

Then, shoppers should be to buy July 1.

"It seems like every week or every, so many months there's another layer, thinner layer of onion that we try to peel back, and there's another issue," Senator Ketron said. "It's interesting to work on, but we're getting much, much closer."

Senator Ketron said he believes this legislation will clear both the House and Senate in two to three weeks, and it will become law when Governor Bill Haslam signs it.

Then grocers can start applying for their wine licenses.