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    Tennessee Banning Wine Sales in Food Stores

    State awaits legislative decision on allowing grocery stores to sell wine.

    By Hank Behar

    NEW YORK -- Only 15 states ban the sale of wine in grocery stores, and Tennessee is one of them.

    That rankles some wine advocates, but what chafes Tennesseans even more is that six of the seven states bordering Tennessee allow wine to be sold in grocery stores: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri and North Carolina. Only Kentucky bans it.

    As a result, Tennesseans living on the borders often drive into nearby states to pick up their wine while shopping for groceries. This loss of business revenue and sales taxes is not lost on some state legislators who have been pushing for a change in the law, pointing out, for the benefit of its neighbors, that according to the Tennessee Consumers For Fair Wine Laws, consumers in states with less access to wine tend to pay 20 percent more per bottle.

    On the other side of the argument, testimony before a joint committee of the Tennessee General Assembly in 2008 noted Tennessee would be mistaken to change its law since it has an "excellent record" on alcohol consumption, with the nation's third lowest prevalence of alcohol consumption, and rates in binge drinking lower than the national average.

    Emily LeRoy, executive director of the Tennessee Fuel and Convenience Store Association (TFCA) is waiting for the law to be written before taking a position on it. "There are so many details to take into consideration that a simple yes or no isn't possible at this time," said LeRoy. "We have to see how the final draft will affect our members before mounting a lobbying effort in one direction or the other."

    Changing the law, however, will not be easy. As Representative Curry Todd, Republican of Collierville, put it: "Hopefully, folks won't get the misconception ... [that] we'll snap our fingers and have wine in grocery stores the next day. Only one person, Jesus, made wine with the snap of his fingers. He's about the only one I know who could do that."

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    By Hank Behar
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