Under a new state law it soon may be possible for Tennessee imbibers to get all the fixings they need for a Manhattan, Martini or Rum & Coke in one stop – their neighborhood liquor store.
As of July 1, 2014 liquor stores can opt to sell cherries, limes, lemons, colas, chips, cigarettes and cigars in addition to the bourbon, tequila, vodka and wine now available. The change is a compromise in a new allowing voters a say on wine sales in grocery stores.
Earlier this year state lawmakers struck down a law that restricted wine sales to liquor stores. In the new law local communities will vote on whether supermarket and convenient stores can sell wine. Associated Press reported that it could take up to two years for such sales to be approved but lawmakers are considering changing the time period.
In Chattanooga area grocery stores are collecting signatures to put the question to vote on the November ballot.
There have been efforts to allow wine sales in grocery stores for several years but the liquor lobby held it off until recently. Despite the pressure the idea gained widespread support of Tennesseeans who saw their Georgia neighbors making only one stop for wine and bread on the way home.
The compromise is meant to help liquor store owners offset the projected loss in revenue from the loss of wine sales. Under the old law liquor stores could only sell liquor, wine and beer with alcohol content above 9 percent.
Liquor stores that are within 500 feet of a grocery store or shopping center with big box retailers that offer full food sales would have to apply for a waiver to sell the additional items, according to Mark Hutchens, chief investigator for the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Liquor store owners and grocery stores may agree not to change their sales policies.
In Chattanooga, the Ooltewah Publix Grocery store has agreed not to sell wine and in return the liquor store located on the store’s grounds will not sell sundries, according the liquor store manager.
The owner of the Liquor and Package store in the Bi-Lo Shopping Center on Hixson Pike has also declined to sell other items. However it was not possible to determine what Bi-Lo’s official position is. But it is a Bi-Lo employee who mans the petition drive in the lobby of the Hixson store so it’s likely one of Chattanooga’s oldest grocery chains intends to sell wine.
The owners of Ziggy’s Liquor store on Cherokee Boulevard have already moved beer and other items into the store. For years the owners operated a small store next door in the same building to sell beer, sodas and other sundries.
“We just moved everything from next door,” Ziggy’s manager said. “It’s more convenient for us now.”
Hutchens said Tennessee is catching up with other states that have wine and beer sales in the same retail establishment. He said he knows one person who will be especially happy with the change.
“My sister is from Tennessee but she has lived in Alabama for 30 years,” he said. “Last year she was in Knoxville and she bought some wine. She needed a wine opener but she couldn’t get one (under the old law). She called me up and chewed me out good.”