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Special interest wins again in wine debate

Staff Report • Feb 10, 2012 at 8:39 AM

Here we go again. Just as it did in two previous sessions of the state General Assembly, the liquor lobby has successfully bottled up legislation to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores. This is certainly not the most pressing issue before state lawmakers — heaven knows they should concern themselves with things that will better the lives of all citizens in Tennessee.

Still, it is a curious fact that a small but well-monied and well-organized special interest has been able to stifle action on a bill that most lawmakers say their constituents support. This year, legislation sponsored by state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, to allow voters to decide if they want wine sold in local supermarkets has stalled in the state Senate. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported this week the bill died when no senator agreed to sponsor the measure.

It was another setback for those who would like to see Tennessee’s liquor laws enter the 21st century. Proponents of allowing wine to be sold in supermarkets say it would result in lower prices for customers. They also believe allowing grocery stores to sell wine will make it more convenient for consumers to buy it.

On the other hand, liquor store operators say changing wine sales would hurt their business and put many of their employees out of work.

Bills aimed at allowing wine sales in grocery stores have stalled in the state General Assembly in recent years, thanks in large part to strong lobbying by the liquor industry.

We believe state lawmakers need to stop putting off this issue and begin work to reform Tennessee’s archaic liquor laws that have long confused customers and hurt business for grocers in border areas like Bristol, who see patrons take their money to Virginia.

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