Wine in grocery stores headed to Governor Haslam’s desk

Wine in grocery stores headed to Governor Haslam's desk (Image 1)

A bill allowing wine to be sold outside Tennessee liquor stores is headed to Governor Bill Haslam's desk where he is expected to sign the measure.

The Senate late Monday approved minor changes made by the House when the lower chamber passed its version of the bill 71-15 last month.

The proposal would grant authority to cities and counties that have package stores or liquor-by-the-drink sales to hold referendums on whether to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.

It also allows local votes to take place as early as this fall but would not allow supermarket wine sales until July 2016 at the earliest.

Under current law, supermarkets and convenience stores can sell beer containing up to 6.5 percent alcohol by volume. Anything stronger can be sold only in package stores, which can't sell anything beyond booze and lottery tickets.

Beginning in July, no matter what happens in the local votes, liquor stores will have a lengthy set of new rules expanding on what they can sell and where they can locate.

In a statement after the vote, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey said, “After years of hard work, I'm proud to see this issue finally settled in the legislature. This bill is a solid compromise that allows for the expansion of consumer choice while protecting small businesses that took risks and invested capital under the old system. This bill puts the issue where it belongs: in the hands of the people of Tennessee.”

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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