MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The battle to sell wine at Tennessee grocery stores is going into its sixth year.
It appeared grocers were putting on a hard push in Nashville. Legislators reportedly received mementoes to call attention to the issue, and those who want wine in groceries appeared to be changing strategies.
News of the lobbying effort was posted on Twitter. State Representative Antonio Parker (D-Memphis) tweeted: “Kroger has a heavy presence on the hill today.”
“Today, yes, legislators were, from what I understand, presented grocery wine bags with flyers,” said Josh Hammond, co-owner of Buster’s Liquor and Wines in Midtown. He is also the President of the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association.
According to Hammond, grocers were pushing hard for the sale of wine in their stores, but with a twist.
“This is a little bit of a new and different maneuver,” he said. “They would like to bypass the state legislature, I guess, because in the last five years they really haven’t had any traction.”
Grocery stores are asking for local referendums. But, some wine buyers like the idea.
“I mean, I drink wine,” Jada Irvin told abc24.com, “and the liquor store might be closed—you can’t buy alcohol at certain times. So hey, I could grocery shop and get my wine at the same time.”
Kelly Glenn moved to Memphis a year ago, after running liquor stores in Missouri just as wine moved into groceries.
“It takes away from the local business,” said Glenn, “so I’m on the side of the liquor stores.”
Grocers are pushing hard, with displays asking “Where’s the wine?” and directing those who want wine in groceries to the website redwhiteandfood.com. The website urges the legislature to let Tennesseans vote on the issue.
But Hammonds said most of his customers seemed unaware of the battle, or at least, unconcerned.
“There’s no question this is about money and profits,” said Hammond, “it is one side of the industry versus the other side.”
Hammond said hearings on the issue were scheduled in Nashville during the week of February 25th.
Abc24.com contacted several local stores and Kroger for comment on the effort to get wine into groceries. None would talk, and Kroger did not respond to a request for an interview.