Tennessee Lawmakers Consider Bill to Allow Wine Sales in Grocery Stores

FAYETTEVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Picking up a bottle of wine at your neighborhood grocery store is a routine occurrence in Alabama.  But that’s not the case on the other side of the state line.

Tennessee lawmakers are considering a bill that would end a long-standing ban on wine sales for retailers.  The debate to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores has been going on for decades, but now appears to be clearing its last hurdle in the state legislature.

“Everyone is gonna want a piece of the pie, but I’ll stay out of that part,” said David West.

West is the owner of Gerald’s Foodland in Fayetteville, one of thousands of Tennessee grocery stores that are currently banned from selling wine. The Tennessee Legislature recently passed a bill that would allow retailers to sell wine provided voters in their home county approve the move in a public referendum.

However, that’s not a given in Lincoln County, where some stores like Gerald’s say they’ll stay dry regardless.

“We got a lot of churches and organizations that come through here, and a lot of people shop here due to the fact that they don’t have to pass the beer or wine on display.  The store was built that way, and we’ll keep those values as long as the store is open,” West said.

Liquor stores and some church groups formed an unusual coalition in a bid to block the bill, which still awaits the signature of Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.  If he does, some counties could start voting on the matter as soon as this fall.

Both bodies of the Tennessee Legislature passed differing versions of bill.

Even if voters in some counties approve the change, they’ll still have to wait a little longer.  The law wouldn’t take effect until the summer of 2016.

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