Several local large grocers and are still circulating petitions to put a referendum on the ballot in Johnson City. Regional supermarket chain Food City and Red White and Food, an organization that helped pass a new law in the state General Assembly to trigger such referendums, have been leading the effort in Washington County.
According to the so-called “wine in grocery stores” law signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in March, petitions must be submitted to county election commissions bearing signatures totaling at least 10 percent of the number of voters in each town and city in the most recent gubernatorial election by Aug. 21 for the referendum to be on each municipality’s ballot in November.
A wine in grocery stores referendum can only be held in a county or city that allows retail liquor package stores, and/or allows the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on premises.
Proponents of a wine referendum would need to collect approximately 1,200 signatures in Washington County before the deadline to get the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.
If voters approve the local referendums, food stores — defined as retail stores that earn at least 20 percent of their taxable sales from the sale of food — will be allowed to sell wine starting July 1, 2016. Some state legislators, however, have said that date might be moved forward in the next session of the General Assembly.
If the food store seeking to sell wine is within 500 feet of an existing liquor store, the food retailer must first get permission from the liquor store owner allowing wine sales. If the liquor store owner doesn’t grant the special permission, the food store can’t begin selling wine until July 2017.
We want to hear from you. Have you signed a petition calling for a referendum on wine in grocery stores? Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.