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Some Tennessee Grocery Stores May Have To Wait An Extra Year To Sell Wine

Tennesseans overwhelmingly voted for wine in grocery stores during the election earlier this month, with a referendum passing in every single community that put it on the ballot. Under the law as it’s written now, wine cannot be sold in grocery stores until July 2016 but, for stores within 500 feet of an existing liquor store, it could be 2017, according to Knoxville’s 6 News.

So, what’s the distance from Trader Joe’s to Bob’s Liquor and Wine in Knoxville?

“I measured it. About 250 feet,” owner Bob Gilbertson told the TV station.

That means he could take advantage of an option in state law and force Trader Joe’s to wait an extra year until 2017 to start selling wine.

“We could, but we’re not. It’d be really bad PR. If you could buy wine everywhere but Trader Joes and Bob’s liquor store was the cause of that, it wouldn’t look good. Besides I don’t think it’d have a big effect on how much wine we sell,” Gilbertson said.

Down Kingston Pike, Toddy’s Liquor and Wine is just across the street from the Bearden Kroger.

“Three hundred seventy-two feet,” said owner John Cooke, who reveals he hasn’t decided if he wants to delay its wine sales. “I really haven’t made my mind up. I’m slow, and I’m just kind of waiting to see what happens,” he said.

Cooke hasn’t started selling the snacks and accessories liquor stores were allowed to add over the summer as an attempt to somewhat level the playing field with grocery stores.

That would preclude him from exercising his option to delay the Bearden Kroger’s wine sales.

“There’s not a lot of profit in items we were offered to sell. When I’m going to lose 35 to 40 percent of my business, I’m not really in the expansion mode,” Cooke said.

What concerns liquor store owners even more is that the law might change again.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has said he thinks the legislature will try to move up the start date to wine in grocery stores to 2015.

Trader Joe’s had no comment for 6 News and has a policy not to speak with trade publications like The Shelby Report. Kroger says it hopes it doesn’t face any delays, but that it understands there’s a possibility.

Stores that qualify to sell wine in 2016 have to be bigger than 1,200 s.f. and have more than 20 percent of sales from food.

They would not be allowed to sell wine on Sunday, the same rule that applies to liquor stores.

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