Tennessee Voters May Determine Wine Sales Eligibility

Convenience store ban would need to be lifted city by city

Published in CSP Daily News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Voters would decide whether their cities or counties allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores, under a bill passed by the Tennessee Senate on this past week.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro was approved on a 23-8 vote after the companion bill was revived in the House this week, according to an Associated Press report.

Ketron said the bill reflects a shift away from liquor laws that been in place in the state since Prohibition.

"Things have changed in our world," he told AP. "The people of Tennessee want this opportunity."

The proposal would allow cities and counties to vote on grocery store and convenience store wine sales as early as November, but wouldn't allow retailers to stock wine until at least July 2016.

The Senate version would require convenience stores to have at least 1,200 square feet to qualify for a wine sales license, while the House version would set that limit at 2,000 square feet. A compromise bill is expected to go to the governor for his signature.

Under current law, supermarkets and convenience stores can sell beer containing up to 6.5% alcohol by volume. Anything stronger can only be sold in package stores, which can't sell anything beyond booze and lottery tickets.