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Nathan Baker

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Governor set to sign wine bill Thursday

March 19th, 2014 9:57 am by Nathan Baker

Governor set to sign wine bill Thursday

Gov. Haslam speaks to reporters Tuesday at Indian Trail Intermediate School. (Lee Talbert / Johnson City Press)

During a visit to Johnson City Tuesday to promote education reform, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said he will likely sign the anticipated wine-in-grocery-stores bill into law Thursday.

The governor said a signing ceremony is scheduled in Nashville at 11 a.m. for the law that will allow retail food stores — supermarkets, big box retailers and convenience stores — to begin selling wine by 2016 if the municipalities in which they are located approves the sales by a public referendum.

Under the law, retail liquor stores will be allowed to begin selling an expanded list of items, including cups, ice, cigarettes and snacks, beginning in July of this year.

The regulations governing wholesale distributors will also be changed, allowing liquor and wine distributors to maintain operations in the Tri-Cities for the first time ever, instead of keeping them in the state's four largest cities.

The leaders of grocery chains, like Steve Smith, head of Abingdon, Va.'s, K-VA-T, parent of Food City, have long pushed for the wine allowance, which would undoubtedly increase revenue, but the state's liquor lobby opposed the bill until this year, when the legislative sponsors added the concessions.

Still, local liquor retailers remain skeptical regarding the anticipated law, taking a wait-and-see approach toward its effects.

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