Free My MerlotOnce again, legislation to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores has been filed in both Houses of the Tennessee General Assembly (HB 1157/SB 0121), and the same tired old objections are repeating themselves like a broken record-or a scratched CD, for those of you too young to own any records.
It will increase the levels of teen drinking in Tennessee, we are told. On a daily basis, I'm around a good many teenagers through our fire cadet program here in White Pine. Those who are going to drink are (unfortunately) already doing so despite the laws that we have, because they get their alcohol from those who are of age who funnel it to them. Youngsters who are not predisposed to drink underage are less likely to do it with any regularity, and those opposed to the sale of wine in grocery stores know that the store clerk has the same weapon that the liquor store manager has to fight underage sale and consumption-a simple "can I see some ID please," and if you think that is too much trouble, grocery stores already do that with tobacco products.
Opposition to the sale of wine in grocery stores is really about stifling competition. The chief lobbying effort against this bill is from the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retail Association. These groups are no more or less interested in stopping underage drinking than anyone who sells alcohol, because as with any retailer, they wouldn't want to lose their license to sell or do business. The real reason that the liquor lobby is so adamantly opposed to the sale of wine in grocery stores is because the liquor stores would have competition, and would be forced to expand selection and lower prices. Capitalism is so terrible, isn't it?
Mom and Pop package stores will be driven out of business, so the liquor lobby says. Yet they fail to explain how that hasn't happened in Kentucky, Missouri, or other nearby States that allow wine in grocery stores. As was explained in this space in November, the forces arrayed against this legislation simply aren't telling the whole truth about what this bill will and will not mean to their business.
This isn't a matter of saving Mom and Pop or stopping underage consumption, but the issue at hand is one of consumer choice for Tennesseans.