Tennessee legislators are once again debating possible changes to the state’s arcane liquor laws. In particular, some lawmakers want to put an end to the monopoly a narrow group of retailers now enjoy on wine sales. Currently, if you want to buy a bottle of wine in Tennessee you must go to a “package” store licensed by the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
For years, consumers have complained that this requirement makes no sense. In neighboring states like North Carolina and Virginia, wine — like beer — can be found on supermarket shelves. Not so in the Volunteer State.
The idea of allowing wine to be sold in supermarkets is embraced by grocers and consumers and loathed by liquor store owners, who say it would lead to more underage drinking in Tennessee. The liquor lobby has enlisted a coalition of law enforcement officials in Tennessee to help make its case.
This argument, however, is dubious at best. Tennessee has a law on the books that requires every customer who purchases a six-pack of beer in a grocery store to show proof of age. No such law applies to the purchase of wine or liquor at a store licensed by the ABC.
It’s time for state lawmakers to review the ABC’s enforcement of liquor laws. Does the state agency have the staffing needed to fairly enforce the laws? Does the ABC play favorites when it comes to punishing offenders?
These are just a few of the questions legislators should be asking.