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

Senate Committee Postpones Vote On Wine Sales In Food Stores

Press Release from the Red White and Food Campaign, Atkinson Public Relations; March 29, 2011:

Senate Committee Postpones Vote on Wine Sales in Food Stores

SB 316 expected to return to calendar in April

NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 29, 2011 – After hearing testimony from proponents and opponents of wine sales in retail food stores this morning, the Senate State and Local Government Committee postponed a vote on SB 316 to a future meeting.

“Tennesseans have been waiting a long time for the opportunity to buy wine in food stores,” said Jarron Springer, president of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association. “We are hopeful that the committee will vote in favor of SB 316 in two weeks.”

Randy Stepherson, an independent grocer from Memphis, testified on behalf of Red White and Food during the hearing. As president of Stepherson’s Inc., he operates five grocery stores that employ 360 Tennesseans.

Stepherson said the grocery industry is better because of competition and that consumers will be the biggest winners if Tennessee allows wine in retail food stores.

Middle Tennessee State University recently found that 69 percent of Tennesseans are in favor of wine sales in food stores. More than 26,000 people have signed up as members of the Red White and Food campaign to show their support.

“Consumers overwhelmingly want wine sales in food stores, and this delay gives them more time to contact their legislators and ask for their support,” Springer said.

Red White and Food launched in March 2008 to support legislation that would allow retail food stores to sell wine. Supporters become Red White and Food members by signing up at

Press Releases

Wine-in-Grocery-Store Advocates: Loosening Regs Would ‘Uncork New Jobs’

Press Release from the campaign to allow wine sales in retail food stores supported by the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association, Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Association, Tennessee Retail Association and The Wine Institute ; Feb. 2, 2011:

Wine sales in retail food stores would create up to 3,500 jobs; Economic impact study also finds state and local revenues would increase

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Passing legislation to allow wine sales in retail food stores would bring new jobs and revenue to Tennessee, a new economic impact study finds.

The analysis by Stonebridge Research Group projects Tennessee’s overall wine market will grow by 25-55 percent if the law passes. That level of growth would create between 1,597 and 3,513 Tennessee jobs.

Opening the wine market to retail food stores also would generate anywhere from $19.0 million to $38.2 million in taxes and license fees for local and state governments. The entire report is available at

Gov. Bill Haslam and leaders in the General Assembly repeatedly have said job creation and addressing the state’s financial challenges are top priorities.

“We are preventing Tennesseans from getting much-needed jobs if we don’t pass this bill,” said Jarron Springer, president of the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association. “The substantial revenue generated by this legislation doesn’t require a tax increase or an incentive to spur private investment.”

In addition to job creation and tax revenue, Stonebridge researchers analyzed the impact that increased competition for wine sales would have on liquor stores.

Existing liquor stores could see a 5-28 percent reduction in sales volume in communities most likely to buy wine, according the report. Between 104 and 597 liquor store jobs would be vulnerable, but it is unreasonable to assume that all of these jobs would be eliminated.

“The net impact is about 1,000 to 3,000 new jobs for Tennesseans,” Springer said.

During the session Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Rep. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) will reintroduce legislation that would allow wine sales in Tennessee retail food stores.

The proposed legislation recommends changes that benefit liquor stores and their revenue, including:

· Owning multiple stores

· Selling stores to out-of-state companies

· Offering wine tastings in liquor stores

· Providing alcohol to non-profit events free of charge (sponsorships)

· Selling additional items associated with alcoholic beverages, including glasses, corkscrews, ice, mixers, etc.

“Liquor store owners deserve an opportunity to compete in the new market,” Springer said. “It’s up to them to come to the table.”

The Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association commissioned Stonebridge Research Group, which specializes in the wine industry, to conduct the study.

The association also is a supporter of Red White and Food, the campaign that backs legislation that would allow retail food stores to sell wine. More than 25,000 Tennesseans have become Red White and Food members by signing up at