Tennessee Grocery, C-Store Wine Legislation Progresses

House committees split legislation into two bills; would mandate 20% markup

Published in CSP Daily News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Legislation that would let grocery and convenience stores sell wine has started to make its way through the Tennessee House of Representatives on Tuesday, as supporters sidestepped a hurdle that blocked the bill a year ago, reported The Tennessean. Committees approved two separate bills that would lift restrictions on liquor stores and let local governments hold referendums on whether to let supermarkets, big-box retailers and c-stores in their jurisdictions sell wine.

The House legislation differs substantially from the Senate's measure, which could come up for a vote as soon as Thursday. If both pass the legislature, they would have to be reconciled before communities could hold their first referendum on wine in grocery and c-stores.

Through a series of complicated maneuvers, House Speaker Beth Harwell and other backers were able to get the legislation out of the committee that sank it a year before and advance a plan that addresses questions about Sunday sales, restrictions on liquor stores and what kinds of wine grocery and c-stores would be permitted to sell, said the report.

Supporters achieved their goal by splitting the legislation into two bills. One measure, House Bill 47, was amended to address state liquor laws.

The plan unveiled Tuesday morning and approved later in the day by the House State Government Committee would mandate a 20% markup over wholesale prices on wine and prohibit grocery and c-stores from selling on Sundays and from selling "high-gravity" beer, fruit-flavored wine or wine with more than 18% alcohol.

Liquor stores, meanwhile, would be allowed to sell other items for the first time, including periodicals, corkscrews, glassware, t-shirts, mixers and snacks.

HB 47 also says grocery and c-stores would not be able to sell wine until July 1, 2016. Those located within 500 feet of a liquor store would have to wait until July 1, 2017, or get the liquor store owner's permission to begin selling wine--setting up a transition period during which liquor stores could reconsider their business plans.

A second measure, House Bill 610, would establish procedures for local referendums on wine in grocery and c-stores.

Click here to view the full Tennessean report.