“This is a convenience issue [for consumers] and an issue of making it more convenient, too, for stores that are already open, like a grocery,” Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said after filing the legislation this week.
Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron, of Murfreesboro, is sponsoring the companion bill in the upper chamber.
Ketron led the years-long struggle to allow grocery stores and some convenience stores to sell wine. The 2014 law took effect last July after voters in dozens of cities, including Chattanooga and most surrounding towns and cities, approved the sales in public referendum votes.
“On first glance, you’d think that people ought to be open whenever they want to be open,” McCormick said. “People are going to get the product one way or the other anyway.”
As things stand now, McCormick said, grocery store operators are having to explain to customers they can’t sell them wine on Sundays and “rope off” sections where wine is on shelves.
The bill also would allow package stores to open to sell liquor, as well.
The lobbyist for liquor store owners said in a December interview store owners were split on allowing Sunday sales with some stores favoring opening and others not.
“I’ve gotten a little bit of pushback from a couple of owners of liquor stores that don’t want to be open on Sunday because they’d rather do something else on Sunday, the small, mom-and-pop businesses that don’t have a bunch of employees,” McCormick said.
McCormick said he intends “to discuss this with those folks, especially in my district, and just get some feedback and learn more about their side of the story.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Haslam, who, along with family members, owns the Pilot Flying J truck stop and convenience store chain, which sells wine at some locations, appears to be steering clear of the issue just as he did on the original law allowing wine in grocery stores.
“I doubt we’ll have a position on that one, we’ll probably stay out of that one,” Haslam said Thursday, according to The Associated Press.