Beer, wine and liquor interests gave more than $576,000 to state-level candidates this year, making the industry one of the top 10 contributors and, of course, one of the most influential on Capitol Hill. By comparison, the top industry, of health professionals, gave $1.8 million.
The numbers are a sure sign that a proposal to allow wine sales in grocery stores could go nowhere when the Legislature convenes in January. The sacred cow is the state’s three-tiered system of distributing wine, which ensures that wholesalers get a cut of every sale. If Kroger and Publix were allowed to buy and sell direct, the thinking goes, the wholesalers would be that much poorer.
The Commercial Appeal explains the economic argument and also hints at a potential compromise:
The state’s liquor retailers and wholesalers have opposed the bill, on the grounds that it would increase access to alcohol by minors and hurt liquor retailers’ business, forcing stores to close and costing many employees their jobs.
Liquor stores in Tennessee are prohibited by law from selling other products and they argue that passage of the bill would put them at a competitive disadvantage with grocery stores. A potential point of compromise would allow liquor retailers to sell other products, including non-alcoholic mixers, snack foods and devices like corkscrews.
Don’t uncork that bottle in celebration just yet, though. The Commercial Appeal reminds us that if the Legislature fails to pass the bill, it would be for the fifth straight year in a row.