Petition drives underway to get wine in grocery stores referendum on November ballot

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Don't be surprised if the next time you go grocery shopping, you're asked to sign a petition regarding the sale of wine in grocery stores.

A grocery store lobbying organization called "Red White and Food" kicked off its petition drive Monday in several grocery stores.

Red White and Food has pushed allowing wine sales in Tennessee's retail food stores for years and finally won their fight in the Tennessee legislature in 2014.

Grocery stores want to get enough signatures in Shelby County and across Tennessee to force a November referendum allowing the sale of wine at their locations.

One of the petition locations in Memphis is the new Kroger store at Poplar and Highland.

That's where Memphian Patrick Austin signed one of the petitions.

"I want to be able to buy wine in the grocery stores...pure and simple," said Austin.

The aim is to get the wine in grocery stores referendum on the November 4th ballot.

Through August 21st, registered voters in Shelby County can sign a petition at one of eight Kroger stores and a Superlo Foods in East Memphis.

"Our customers have told us repeatedly that they would like to have wine available in grocery stores. and all of the public opinion poles have agreed with that," said Joe Bell, Manager of Marketing and Public Affairs for Kroger's Delta Division.

The bill allowing wine sales in retail food stores was passed by both the Tennessee House and the Senate during the 2014 legislative session.

On March 20th, Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill into law.

Representative Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, voted for the bill and wants people in favor of wine in grocery stores to have their voices heard come November 4th.

"The petition process is very important. The wine issue will not make it onto the November 4th ballot unless the required number of ballot signatures is collected in each community," said Rep.Antonio Parkinson.

Registered voters may sign the petition only once.

Eligible communities are those that already allow liquor-by-the-drink, liquor stores or both.

Those communities must submit petitions to the local election commission with at least as many valid registered voters as would equal 10 percent of the residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

You must be a registered voter and will have to sign a petition for the Shelby County municipality in which you live.

Memphian Erin Cowles signed the petition Monday morning.

"It just would make life a lot easier if everything were in one store," said Cowles.

Jordan Owens recently moved back to Memphis from Atlanta and said Memphis is way behind the times.

"And they have the wine for sale in the Publix and the grocery stores out there. So I felt that since I'm from Memphis, it should be in Memphis as well, since it's in other cities," said Jordan Owens.

Grocery stores could start selling wine by July 2016 if the referendum passes.

The bill, allowing sales, passed after liquor store operators agreed on certain concessions.

Scott Smith owns the Wine Market in East Memphis right across from the Superlo Grocery.

Smith said concessions mean selling items that have nothing to do with liquor.

"To find new places products that we probably never wanted to carry in the first place, like lottery tickets and cigarettes," said Smith.

Smith said he hopes consumers will thing twice before voting for wine in grocery stores, because their decision could have an economic impact they haven't considered yet.

"Those of us who own wine and liquor stores in the State of Tennessee are required by law to be residents of the State of Tennessee. We pay our taxes, we pay our mortgages, we send our kids to school and we spend our money back in the local community. And when you spend money on wine at a place like Kroger or Wal-Mart or Target, people should remember that money is going to leave our local economy and not be re-circulated in the way that it is now," said Smith.

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