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Would selling wine in grocery stores increase underage drinking?

Staff Report • Dec 10, 2012 at 10:17 AM

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said last week he believes a bill to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores has a good chance of passing when the state General Assembly returns to Nashville next year.

“It’s one of those issues we’ve battled forever,” Ramsey told The Associated Press. “And I think the opponents have held it off for about as long as they can hold it off.”

The two previous sessions of the General Assembly have seen the liquor lobby successfully bottle up legislation to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores. Earlier this year, a bill sponsored by state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, to allow voters to decide if they want wine sold in local supermarkets stalled in the state Senate.

It was another setback for those who would like to see Tennessee allow wine to be sold in supermarkets. Supporters say it will result in lower prices for customers. Proponents 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. David McMahan, a lobbyist for the state liquor stores association, said selling wine in grocery stores could also lead to more underage drinking in Tennessee.

Bills aimed at allowing wine sales in grocery stores have gotten nowhere in the General Assembly in recent years. As a result, if you want to buy a bottle of wine in Tennessee you must go to a liquor store licensed by the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Vino enthusiasts think that law is outdated and believe you should be able to buy a bottle of wine at a local grocery store, just as residents of North Carolina and Virginia are able to do.

We want to hear from you. Do you think allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores in Tennessee will lead to more underage drinking?

Send comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Include your name, phone number and address for verification. We will print responses in the coming weeks.

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