BRISTOL, Tenn. - Thursday was a big day for supermarkets across Tennessee.
Move over beer; soon, wine could also fill the shelves at supermarkets like Food City. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed the 'wine in grocery stores' bill into law Thursday. "I think at the end of the day, it'll be a big benefit for us and our customers," says Food City assistant store manager Jason Morrell.
Across the street from Food City, Vintage Collections owner Michael Hilton couldn't be more opposed to the bill. "It simply makes getting drunk more convenient for more people, and it discriminates against small business owners like myself," he said.
Wine in grocery stores has been an ongoing battle in Tennessee between liquor store owners and supermarkets, but Thursday it received a thumbs up from Tennessee lawmakers. "A lot of our customers had thought that we already had it, and when they come in they are looking for it. We have to tell them in Tennessee, we're not able to sell it yet," adds Morrell.
The legislation gives voters the power to decide whether or not wine will be sold in grocery stores in their region. The law would also allow retail liquor stores to sell an expanded list of items including cups, ice, cigarettes, and snacks beginning in July of this year.
Hilton tells us he isn't sure that'll help his business. "I don't know. Where we would find the space to carry and expand line of products?" he asked.
Hilton tells us 40 percent of his business comes from wine sales which leaves the future of his business unclear but at Food City they are excited for the possible opportunity.
Both stores tell us they'll just have to wait and see what voters decide.
We learned the vote for wine in grocery stores could come as early as November. Retail food stores can begin selling wine by 2016 if voters approve a referendum in their communities.
Here's what has to happen next for the 'wine in grocery store' law to make it to your ballots in November:
Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey tells us first there has to be a petition for the referendum then collect a specific number of signatures.
He says the petition must then be taken to the voting office where it will then be placed on the ballot, then voters will have a chance to make the final decision.
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