BRISTOL, Tenn. - Local liquor stores and law enforcement are speaking out against the proposal of putting wine in Tennessee grocery and convenience stores.
"It's not about economic gain, it's about public safety," said Kingsport Police Chief Gale Osborne.
A group of law enforcement officials at a press conference in Nashville on Wednesday said the greater availability of wine will come at the price of public safety. "Providing a stronger alcohol more readily available is not going to help us. It's not going to help public safety. It's not going to help our society. It's not going to help Tennessee," said Tim Eads with the Belle Meade Police Department.
In east Tennessee, some police seem to agree. Osborne said he's worried the sale of high-volume wine will lead to more alcohol-related issues including drunk driving, domestic violence and underage drinking. "There's so many more problems when you have that easy access," he said.
Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said he understand the convenience for shoppers, but people need to take a stand to protect the community. He's worried underage buyers are less likely to get noticed in grocery stores.
"I think we're getting the short end of the stick," said Ryan Hilton, an employee at Vintage Collections Wine and Liquor in Bristol, Tennessee. He said the small businesses are going to get hurt the most since wine accounts for about 30 percent of their total sales. "Grocery stores get to sell a lot more products than we do. We have the capability to sell two items: wine and liquor," he said.
He is also worried the wine would probably be cheaper at the bigger stores because they can buy in bulk. "It's going to take a huge chunk out of our pocket," Hilton said.
But on the other side of the state line, wine has been sold in grocery stores for years. Police in Bristol said they haven't had a lot of problems. "I can understand why they would be concerned, but we haven't seen a big difference," said Maynard Ratcliff with the Bristol, Virginia Police Department.
Public opinion seems to be in favor of the proposal too. According to a Middle Tennessee State University Poll, 62 percent of Tennesseans support letting grocery stores sell wine, while 26 percent were opposed and 12 percent were undecided.