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NASHVILLE -- A panel formed to study Tennessee's alcohol control laws kicked off its work Wednesday, but members indicated they will be in no hurry to make changes -- not even on the popular issue of permitting wine sales in grocers and c-stores.
According to a report by The Tennessean, members of the Joint Study Committee on Wine in Grocery Stores reviewed arguments for and against wine sales in a 90-minute meeting that pitted lobbyists for the state's grocers against those representing liquor sellers. Members adjourned without discussing at length any compromises that might bring the two sides closer together. They also did not set a date for their next meeting.
"Sometimes we just go slow up here, slower than a lot of folks like," said Rep. Curry Todd, R-Colliersville. "There's a misperception out there that this is something you can get done with the swipe of a pencil."
The Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association, a group that represents 700 chain and independent supermarkets and more than 400 convenience stores, has been pushing to sell wine for the past few legislative sessions, but they have been opposed by groups representing liquor retailers and wholesalers, the newspaper reported.
Opponents argue that letting grocery stores sell wine would open other legal issues, disadvantage independent liquor stores, and make it easier for underage drinkers to obtain alcohol.
Among the questions panel members said they have to consider are whether grocery store operators would be subject to background checks, whether state or local regulators would oversee sales, and what to do with decades-old rules like those that bar liquor stores from having multiple entrances, according to the report.
The committee will meet several more times over the next year or so. It plans to make recommendations that would be taken up when the next General Assembly convenes in 2011.
Tennessee C-stores, Grocers Continue Fight to Sell Wine