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TN State Library Hosts Prohibition Exhibit

Press release from the Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett; May 2, 2013:

It was the constitutional amendment that tried – often unsuccessfully – to put Americans on the path to sobriety and in the process created a booming market for Tennessee’s providers of illegal moonshine whiskey.

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which launched the Prohibition era in 1920, was called the country’s “noble experiment.” That experiment ended 13 years later with the ratification of the 21st Amendment – the only amendment to repeal another amendment – which halted Prohibition and brought imbibing back out of the shadows.

Now a new exhibit in the lobby of the Tennessee State Library and Archives building chronicles the history surrounding the passage of both amendments.

This exhibit, entitled “The Saloon and Anarchy: Prohibition in Tennessee,” surveys the brewing and distilling industries in Tennessee prior to Prohibition, chronicles the rise of the Temperance Movement in the state and the impact it had on the passage of the 18th Amendment, examines the effect that the 18th Amendment had on moonshining in the state, and recounts the passage of the 21st Amendment.

Drawing on the wealth of material in the Tennessee State Library and Archives’ rich collections, this exhibit features items such as: 19th and 20th Century temperance literature (such as the 1902 temperance tract: The Saloon and Anarchy, the Two Worst Things in the World, Versus the United States of America), temperance songs from the Kenneth D. Rose Sheet Music Collection, the 1908 trademark registration by Lem Motlow (Jack Daniel’s nephew and business partner) for the phrase “Old No. 7,” and various pieces of Prohibition-related legislation from the records of the Tennessee General Assembly.

“The Prohibition era was a very interesting time in our state’s history,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “This exhibit gives Tennesseans the opportunity to learn more about that era and the thinking and attitudes that led first to the passage of the 18th Amendment – and then later to its repeal. I encourage those who are in the Nashville area to visit the exhibit at the State Library and Archives. For those who are unable to make the trip to Nashville, please check out the online version of the exhibit on our web site.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular library hours. The Tennessee State Library and Archives is open from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.

The library is located at 403 7th Avenue North in downtown Nashville, just west of the State Capitol building. A limited amount of public parking is available around the library building.

The exhibit will remain available for viewing until the end of September.

The online version of the exhibit is available at http://www.tn.gov/tsla/exhibits/prohibition/index.htm.

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Environment and Natural Resources Liberty and Justice Tax and Budget

Time to Talk About Wine Again

A joint legislative study group is set to uncork another round of discussion Tuesday on changing Tennessee law to allow wine sales in grocery stores.

Leading the committee is Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, who said that just as in the group’s first hearing in late October, he’ll allot mic time to both advocates and opponents of the proposed legislation leftover from last year.

But Ketron, a supporter of the wine-in-grocery-stores bills, said he’s also asked a “neutral party” to corroborate published estimates  — challenged by some who oppose legalizing wine sales outside liquor stores — that as much or more than $17 million dollars in additional state tax revenue could be pressed annually from the private sector if grocery store wine sales were permitted.

For three years now, proponents of bringing Tennessee’s retail wine laws in line with 33 other states have been pushing the issue in the Legislature. For three years they’ve come up empty.

Largely responsible thus far for vanquishing vino drinkers’ visions of greater choice are the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee, who’ve lobbied heavily against allowing supermarkets to compete in the retail wine market.

“The future of 550 independent Tennessee-owned small businesses, and their over 3,000 employees, are being threatened,” Chip Christianson, a Nashville liquor store owner and board member for the TWSRA, told the study group during its last meeting.

“How many lost jobs and lost Tennessee businesses are worth a little more convenience for a very few?” he asked.

Christianson also suggested during the hearing that grocery store employees are not reliably capable of determining if customers seeking to purchase “high-proof alcohol products” are of legal age.

One strategy Ketron and his allies are employing to try and cobble together more political support this time around is to invite some of the traditional foes of grocery store wine sales to belly up to the bargaining table.

Retail liquor store owners tend to labor under some pretty onerous restrictions themselves, said Ketron, so it’s probably time to consider reforming a whole range of the state’s three-quarters-of-a-century-old booze-business laws.

Today’s hearing will include discussions about problematic regulatory issues that hinder them as well, he said.

For example, state laws prohibits liquor stores from selling products like ice, beer and non-alcoholic drink mixers and proprietors are banned from owning more than one outlet. Ketron, who also chairs the Senate State and Local Government Committee, said he’d like to see those rules relaxed, too.

Basically, Tennessee’s business regulations that govern the sale of alcohol are antiquated and in need of updating across the board, he said.

“Many of (the laws) go back to the early 1930s, around the time Prohibition was repealed,” said Ketron. “They’ve become convoluted…and it’s basically led to the jumbled mess that we have today.”

The hearing starts this afternoon at 1:30 (agenda-pdf). Watch it online here.