Hank Hayes / TimesNews KINGSPORT — Tennessee is moving toward allowing wine to be sold in retail food stores on July 1, but there are at least two current issues affecting the situation.
One is a statewide issue, while the other concerns one location in Kingsport.
More than 400 retailers, meanwhile, are filling out and submitting applications to sell wine with the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), according to Food City President and CEO Steve Smith.
Smith said Food City, like other retailers, is also currently evaluating its store space to allocate to wine sales.
“That dictates what we call store ‘resets’ — do we cut out 100 feet, 60 feet, 80 feet? — whatever we have to do in rearranging space,” Smith explained. “We’re already starting that. We’ve got 71 stores we know will be able to sell wine all the way from Chattanooga to Bristol.”
But while retailers can begin selling wine on July 1, Smith noted wholesalers can’t start delivering wine until July 1.
“All 400 stores are not going to be able to get delivery that morning and be able to sell it when we open,” Smith pointed out. “But there is legislation currently going through the House and Senate that would allow an early delivery of wine into the supermarkets. … Then we could stock it and put signs on it — ’Not to be sold until July 1.’ ”
The 2014 law allowing retail stores to sell wine also had a provision that would not allow a store to sell wine before July 1, 2017 if it is located within 500 feet of a licensed package store unless TABC receives written permission from the license holder.
In Kingsport, Greenacres Package Store is located within 500 feet of Food City’s Eastman Road location.
“We’re trying to negotiate with the owner of that liquor store. He doesn’t want to talk or meet to have that discussion. If my customers there come in on July 1, they will be disappointed in not being able to buy wine. They can still buy it at Clinchfield and at Colonial Heights,” Smith said.
Those negotiations, said Smith, would include an agreement to help the package store make up for lost profits from wine sales.
The proprietor of the Greenacres Package Store is Kenny Glass. When asked if he would like to tell the public that his business would be the only business selling wine at that location on July 1, Glass said: “No.”
Allowing wine to be sold in retail food stores was fiercely opposed by package store owners in the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association (TWSRA).
TWSRA contended the new law would hurt small business owners and jeopardize the jobs of those business owners.
“Alcohol is not something you play with. It is not food or clothing. It must be tightly regulated and controlled,” TWSRA says on its website (www.twsra.com).
For more about Greenacres Package Store, go to www.greenacrespackage.com.
For more about Food City, go to www.foodcity.com.