MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Tennessee liquor store owners are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into an effort to convince state lawmakers keep wine sales out of grocery stores. A state senate committee is set to consider legislation Tuesday that would allow it if local voters approve.
The owners and employees of small liquor stores are worried it will put them out of business. On one side people say this bill will bring down wine prices and it'll be convenient to buy your groceries and pick up a bottle of wine. On the other side, people say this will encourage underage drinkers and it'll hurt mom and pop liquor stores.
"We can possibly have to close and we worked so hard to get here,” said Ellen Miller, owner of Midtown Wine and Spirits.
Miller and her family bought the liquor store less than two years ago. She fears if lawmakers pass a bill to sell wine in grocery stores it'll cripple the family business.
“Everyone who works here are close family friends so it's very important for us to keep on going because this is how we support ourselves and how we support our employees,” said Miller.
Miller worries if the bill passes her store won’t be able to compete with supermarket prices. People we spoke with disagree.
"I feel like most people go to liquor stores to buy liquor not wine,” said Sarah Duckett, who was neutral about the wine grocery store bill.
"I feel like it wouldn't hurt anybody either way. It could affect mom and pop businesses but that's when good marketing comes in, you should effectively run a good business,” said Trey Welch, an advocate for the bill to pass.
Others want the bill to pass for the pure convenience of "one-stop" shopping: buying wine with their groceries.
"It'll be a good idea to buy wine at the grocery store,” said Memphian Jim Danny. “It'll save you from going to the liquor store, that way you can buy your wine and your groceries."
Miller says police officers told her they don't support the bill.
"The MPD is also concerned that it'll be easier for younger kids to shoplift and get it,” said Miller.
Advocates of the bill say underage drinkers won't care where wine is sold.
"If you want something you're going to get it,” said Welch.
Members of the house subcommittee are scheduled to debate the bill on Wednesday. If the bill passes and the governor signs it into law, it will lift the state wide ban from only selling wine at liquor stores. It will also give a chance for cities and counties to hold a referendum to allow voters to decide if wine should be sold at grocery stores.