Liberty and Justice NewsTracker

Sanderson Seeks to Curb Self-Service Beer Sales

Troubled by the age-old problem of underage drinking, Rep. Bill Sanderson is pushing a bill to clamp down on grocery stores that use self-service lanes.

The Kenton Republican has put forward a proposal to limit self-checkout lanes – “Welcome, valued customer. Please scan your first item.” – to six per attendant. Sanderson says House Bill 304 will deter youths who scan a six-pack of Coca-Cola, then sneak a six-pack of Bud into their grocery bags.

Bill Sanderson

“The notion that one person can oversee an infinite amount of self-checkouts is not even practical,” Sanderson said Tuesday before the House Local Government Committee gave the nod to his bill. “So, this legislation says that if you’re monitoring self-checkouts it should be limited to four self-checkout lanes if you are selling alcohol in that store.”

The Senate version, sponsored by Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, is pending a hearing in a Local Government subcommittee.

But retailers already limit the number of self-checkout lanes they have in operation per employee, a lobbyist for the grocers told lawmakers, and a majority of stores in the state have no more than six per attendant.

“I would say that stores are watching those, and monitoring those in a way that they don’t want an infinite number of checkout stands for one person,” Jarron Springer, with the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, said. “But I think each individual store probably has a different determination on their number.”

Sanderson’s bill comes as the nation sees a drop in drunk-driving fatalities.

Thirty-two states including Tennessee recorded a decrease in drunk-driving fatalities from 2009 to 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nationally, deaths were down 4.9 percent.

The trend holds true among minors, with alcohol-impaired driving fatalities among youths down 60.7 percent since 2000, according to federal numbers tracked by the Century Council, a distilleries group.

Committee chairman Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, questioned the practicality of the legislation. After all, store workers are already required to check the ID of anyone buying alcohol before the checkout process can be completed.

Hill said that he was concerned that the state was “using the government to mandate the number of employees” stores employ.

During committee discussion, several legislators seemed supportive of the bill on the grounds that it would address the issue of alcohol accessibility to minors.

Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, likened the decision of grocery retailers to abide by their own guidelines in this situation to allowing them to determine their own rules in other areas.

“So, if we just say that we should just allow industry to just conduct their own measurable accountability in all these situations, maybe we should do away with several other programs as well, because businesses can just institute that for themselves in home,” Holt said. “Food safety, inventory controls, responsible vending, all of these things.”

Reps. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin; Bo Mitchell, D-Nashville; and Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, requested to be recorded as voting no on the measure. 

Press Releases

TN Grocers Prez: Liquor Retailers Behind Law Enforcement Opposition to Wine in Grocery Stores

Statement from Jarron Springer, President of the TN Grocers & Convenience Store Association; January 9, 2013:

It is disappointing that the liquor retailers would hide behind law enforcement officials in an effort to keep Tennessee consumers from having a voice in the wine in retail food stores debate.

A vote by the legislature in favor of the proposed bill will not place wine in our stores. Passage would only allow local communities to decide through a referendum as to whether wine would be available at retail food stores.

We respect law enforcement and have worked closely with them on the issue of underage drinking. The issue of wine in retail food stores has been debated for five years, and the statements made today mark the first time that a group of law enforcement officials has officially come out against the measure. We can only take that as a sign that the liquor lobby is concerned about the possibility of the bill passing and led the effort to bring the group together this morning.

If law enforcement is concerned about increased access to alcoholic beverages, then surely they will be opposed to future referendums on liquor-by-the-drink and package store availability, which are also handled on the local level.

The statement that increased access to wine is a public safety issue has been proved false by numerous sources, including the FBI. Wine sales in retail food stores are not linked to drunk driving or underage drinking. A study issued in December 2011 by the American Association of Wine Economists and Cornell University showed that “states with higher rates of wine consumption as a share of total alcohol consumption have lower rates of traffic fatalities.”

In addition, states that allow the sale of wine in grocery stores had an average of 21.7 fewer youth liquor violations per 100,000 residents than did states without wine in grocery stores (FBI).

Tennessee’s retail food stores asked for and helped to pass the Responsible Vendor Law. Under this law, all customers purchasing alcohol at a retail food store must show proof of age. Liquor stores do not have to abide by the same requirements.

Again, retail food stores look forward to a healthy and civil legislative debate on the subject of wine in retail food stores and the bill to allow local referendums. Upward of 70 percent of Tennesseans want to purchase wine where they shop for food. We urge the Tennessee General Assembly to let Tennesseans vote on this issue.


Cornell University Study:


Press Releases

100+ Law Enforcement Officials Agree: Wine too Dangerous for Grocery Store Sales

Press release from Tennessee Law Enforcement for Strong Alcohol Laws; January 9, 2013:

Nashville, Tenn. (January 9, 2013) – More than 100 Tennessee chiefs of police and sheriffs have signed a pledge calling on state legislators to oppose the sale of wine in grocery and convenience stores out of concern for public safety and health. The loose coalition called “Tennessee Law Enforcement for Strong Alcohol Laws” includes 106 law enforcement leaders from Tennessee communities of all sizes, including Knoxville, Memphis, Kingsport, and Jackson.

The announcement was made at Legislative Plaza by Madison County Sheriff David Woolfork and Belle Meade Police Chief Timothy Eads, representing their colleagues across the state. They were joined at the event by the police chiefs of Knoxville and Jackson, the sheriffs of Crockett, Chester, Haywood, and Marshall counties, and representatives of the Mt. Pleasant and Waynesboro police departments and Perry County sheriff’s office.

“Tennessee has among the strongest alcohol laws in the country and we want to keep it that way,” said Sheriff Woolfork. “The added convenience that supporters of this law want is not worth jeopardizing the life or safety of even one citizen of this state. As sheriffs and chiefs of police, we deal with the painful consequences of alcohol abuse every day. It makes no sense to increase the availability of high-proof alcohol and create new problems that other states with looser laws are trying to solve. Our departments can’t afford it and our state cannot afford it.”

Should the proposed bill pass, the number of stores selling high-proof alcohol could rise 10 fold, from fewer than 600 to over 5,000. Currently, wine and spirits can only be sold in specialty stores that must be owned by Tennesseans, are limited in size, can have only one door, and can sell only one product – alcohol. Woolfork emphasized that the proposed law would put high proof alcohol not only in grocery stores, but in convenience stores, truck stops, urban markets, gas stations and mega big box stores. None of these environments are tightly controlled, Woolfork said. Eads said high-proof alcohol should not be treated in the marketplace the same way as other grocery items.

“Wine is not a food product and should not be sold as one,” said Eads. “No one has ever overdosed or caused an accident by eating too many grapes. There’s an appropriate retail environment for selling wine and other high-proof spirits, and a convenience store or Walmart is not it.”

Wine contains up to 3 times the alcohol content as beer, which is why it belongs in tightly controlled environments, the law enforcement officials said. They stressed that young people in their communities do drink wine, particularly boxed and sweet wines, because it makes them intoxicated faster than beer.

National and international research demonstrates that increased alcohol availability leads to higher instances of underage drinking,  domestic violence and fatalities in a community. Woolfork said law enforcement departments are already struggling under tight budgets and this law would only make their jobs more difficult.

“There’s no question that the more stores you have selling high-proof alcohol the more problems law enforcement will have to deal with,” said Woolfork. “It’s not just grocery stores in suburban neighborhoods that will be impacted by the bill, but also markets in urban areas that are already struggling with crime. There’s no benefit to this bill other than consumer convenience. Some things shouldn’t be too convenient.”

Woolfork invited other state sheriffs, police chiefs and other members of law enforcement to join the effort and sign the pledge, and called on legislators to put public safety first.

“Take pride in the system we have put in place to control the sale of alcohol,” said Woolfork. “Tennessee is a model for other states of how to strike the right balance between access and control. We urge lawmakers to put safety before convenience and say no to putting wine in grocery and convenience stores.”


Participating Sheriffs and Chiefs:


  • Sheriff Tony King, Benton County
  • Sheriff James Ruth, Bradley County
  • Sheriff Chris Mathes, Carter County
  • Sheriff Blair Weaver, Chester County
  • Sheriff Armando Fontes, Cocke County
  • Sheriff Toy Klyce, Crockett County
  • Sheriff Roy Wyatt, Decatur County
  • Sheriff Jeff Box, Dyer County
  • Sheriff Tony Choate, Fentress County
  • Sheriff Charles W. Arnold, Gibson County
  • Sheriff Kyle Helton, Giles County
  • Sheriff Brent Myers, Grundy County
  • Sheriff Esco Jarnagin, Hamblen County
  • Sheriff Jim Hammond, Hamilton County
  • Sheriff Leamon Maxey, Hancock County
  • Sheriff Sammy Davidson, Hardin County
  • Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, Hawkins County
  • Sheriff Melvin Bond, Haywood County
  • Sheriff Brian Duke, Henderson County
  • Sheriff William Reece, Johnson County
  • Sheriff Steve Sanders, Lauderdale County
  • Sheriff Murray Blackwelder, Lincoln County
  • Sheriff Time Guider, Loudon County
  • Sheriff David Woolfork, Madison County
  • Sheriff Norman Dalton, Marshall County
  • Sheriff Jackie Melton, Meigs County
  • Sheriff Joe Guy, McMinn County
  • Sheriff Mark Logan, Moore County
  • Sheriff Tommy Hickerson, Perry County
  • Sheriff W.B. Melton, Overton County
  • Sheriff Michael Cross, Scott County
  • Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock, Sequatchie County
  • Sheriff Ronald L. Seals, Sevier County
  • Sheriff Bill Oldham, Shelby County
  • Sheriff Ray Russell, Trousdale County
  • Sheriff Michael Hensley, Unicoi County
  • Sheriff Grayson Beasley, Van Buren County
  • Sheriff Jackie Matheny, Warren County


  • Chief Jerry Christopher, Adamsville PD
  • Chief Mark Coulon, Ashland City PD
  • Chief Jessie Poole, Atoka PD
  • Chief Danny Holmes, Baxter PD
  • Chief Tim Eads, Belle Meade PD
  • Chief Roger Jenkins, Bells PD
  • Chief James Winstead, Blaine PD
  • Chief James Baker, Bolivar PD
  • Chief Chris Lea, Brownsville PD
  • Chief Paul McCallister, Burns PD
  • Chief John Hogan, Carthage PD
  • Chief Johnny E. Jones, Caryville PD
  • Chief Jackie King, Chapel Hill PD
  • Chief Hank Hayden, Charleston PD
  • Chief Rick Scarbrough, Clinton PD
  • Chief Daniel Farris, Collinwood PD
  • Chief Todd Bone, Cornersville PD
  • Chief Carson Williams, Dandridge PD
  • Chief Kim Wallace, Dover PD
  • Chief Randal Walker, Dresden PD
  • Chief Mark Moore, Erin PD
  • Chief Wayne Harris, Gordonsville PD
  • Chief Justin Powers, Grand Junction PD
  • Chief Richard Hatfield, Greenbrier PD
  • Chief Ricky DeSpain, Halls PD
  • Chief Raymond Simmons, Humbodlt PD
  • Chief Gill Kendrick, Jackson PD
  • Chief Ken Hancock, Jamestown PD
  • Chief Gale Osborne, Kingsport PD
  • Chief Jim Washam, Kingston PD
  • Chief David Rausch, Knoxville PD
  • Chief Judy Moore, Lawrenceburg PD
  • Chief Don White, Lenoir City PD
  • Chief Bobby Joe Killen, Loretto PD
  • Chief Tony Jay Crisp, Maryville PD
  • Chief Kim Barker, McKenzie PD
  • Director Toney Armstrong, Memphis PD
  • Chief Ronnie Williams, Millersville PD
  • Chief Virgil McNeece, Monteagle PD
  • Chief Roger Overholt, Morristown PD
  • Chief Willie Jackson, Moscow PD
  • Chief Tommy Goetz, Mount Pleasant PD
  • Chief James A. Hambrick, Mt. Juliet PD
  • Chief James T. Akagi, Oak Ridge PD
  • Chief Richard Jewell, Oakland PD
  • Chief Royce Aker, Obion PD
  • Chief Darryl Laxton, Oneida PD
  • Chief Thomas Elizondo, Paris PD
  • Chief Michael Douglas, Pleasant View PD
  • Chief Richard Smith, Portland PD
  • Chief Terry Parker, Powells Crossroads PD
  • Chief John Dickey, Pulaski PD
  • Chief Terry Tuck, Red Boiling Springs PD
  • Chief Jeffrey A. White, Ridgetop PD
  • Chief Jerry Temple, Ripley PD
  • Chief Mike Hensley, Rutherford PD
  • Chief Richard McGinnis, Rutledge PD
  • Chief Donald Derr, Savannah PD
  • Chief David Alexander, Scotts Hill PD
  • Chief Ricky Hoskins, Somerville PD
  • Chief Eddie Carter, Spencer PD
  • Chief Don Brite, Spring Hill PD
  • Chief Will Sanders, Trenton PD
  • Chief David Smith, Trezevant PD
  • Chief Joe Hall, Watertown PD
  • Chief George Barturen, Waynesboro PD
  • Chief Mike Holman, White Bluff PD
  • Chief Steven Stanley, Whiteville PD