Tuesday’s local elections served as a reminder that wine in grocery store advocates have a lot of work to do if they want the issue on November ballots.
While lawmakers struggled for seven years to come up with compromise legislation that passed this year, the bill only gave local communities the option of holding a referendum to allow for the major change in the state’s alcohol laws.
Supporters now have to gather enough signatures on a petition to put the issue on local ballots.
They are likely looking at August deadlines to have the petitions certified by local election commissions.
In some places, especially larger municipalities like Nashville, the task won’t necessarily be easy.
Supporters need to gather 10% of a county’s population that voted in the last governor’s election.
With around 157,000 Nashvillians voting in the 2010 gubernatorial election, the wine in grocery store advocates need around 15,700 certified signatures of other supporters.
Petition drives often gather several thousand additional signatures above the threshold because some are invalidated or improperly collected.
“It’s like putting together a political campaign,” explained Kroger executive Melissa Eads, who has been one of the point people for her company’s efforts to sell wine in its stores. “Around 70% of Tennesseans said they wanted to buy wine where they shop for groceries, so now we need their help. It’s in their hands.”
Those hands will get a lot of help as the Red, White and Food coalition to support wine in grocery stores plans an advertising campaign and a likely media blitz to urge people to sign the petitions.
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