The proposed state law to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores died in the legislature Wednesday for the fifth straight year.
The House State and Local Government Subcommittee rejected a compromise amendment and voted to kill the bill for this session by referring it to next year.
In an attempt to save his bill, Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, tried to amend it to leave it up to voters to decide whether to allow wine sales in grocery stores. Any city or county that already allows liquor by the drink could have held a referendum on wine sales under his amendment. But the subcommittee tabled it by a vote of 5-3.
Lundberg pointed to a study by the grocers association showing wine-in-groceries would create as many as 3,500 jobs and generate up to $38 million in taxes and license fees for local and state governments.
“This is a jobs bill,” Lundberg said. “What we’re doing is removing a state-mandated monopoly and keeping business from literally driving out of the state. Studies show this adds thousands of jobs. Polls show that, frankly, people in this state want this. Let people vote. If they have adopted liquor by the drink in their community, this allows wine in grocery stores to be voted on by the people who want this. The most important thing is, it’s the vote of the people. Let people decide where they want it and if they want it.”
Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, disputed Lundberg’s numbers and basically accused the wine industry of making them up.
“Folks in the grocery business are not going to hire new people,” Todd said. “Folks who now are going to the [wine] store to buy a bottle of wine are going to get the same bottle at the grocery store. It’s swapping out.”
A 2009 MTSU poll found that 62 percent of Tennesseans favored wine sales in food stores. But liquor retailers and wholesalers have opposed the bill, contending that it would hurt their business and increase access to alcohol by minors.
Under current law, only beer can be sold in supermarkets. Wine and liquor are restricted to the 563 licensed liquor stores in the state.