More signatures needed in Memphis to get wine in grocery stores

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. --  The group collecting signatures to allow voters to decide if they want to have wine sold in Memphis grocery stores says it needs more people to sign its petitions.

Right now, more than 14,900 signatures have been collected in Memphis.

More than 33,000 have been collected in Nashville.

Red White and Food, a group working with grocery stores and others, is collecting signatures statewide.

Chris Schirmer works at Stellar Cellar, a local liquor store, and takes pride in what he does.

"I work with my employees more than I see my own family, unfortunately. but we're kind of like a second family around here," he said.

He worries if the state decided to allow wine grocery stores, people may not get the same personalized experience.

"Our general manager right now is in Washington state researching new wines, visiting friends, building relationships...just like we build relationships with our customers," Schirmer said.

Even a faithful Stellar Cellar customer said she can understand the appeal.

Eryin Tornabee said, "I know what it's like. I beg just to go to the grocery store, let alone if you had to make two stops from the liquor store to the grocery stores."

While putting one on the shelves of grocery stores would definitely take some business away from local liquor establishments, people at the Stellar Cellar said they are confidence in their clients.

"I think people would grab stuff out of convenience, but we've had multiple customers voice their opinions that they'd shop with us regardless," Schirmer said.

"They have always been so amazing in their help, and I wouldn't get that at a grocery store," Tornbee added.

Communities that already sell alcohol by the drink or in liquor stores can put a referendum on a ballot if they get enough signatures to equal at least 10 percent of the residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election.

But for the local economy's sake, Tornabee hopes the city will decide to put a cork in it.

"It's the tax dollars that go back to our schools that is huge for me."

So far, 37 communities in Tennessee have enough signatures to let voters have their say, that includes Dyersburg, Oakland and Paris.

Kroger and Superlo Foods will have people in their stores collecting signatures.

August 21 is the deadline to get the signatures needed.

If Memphis were to pass a referendum, wine would hit grocery store shelves on July 1, 2016.

To sign the petition:

  • Individuals who sign the petition must be registered to vote in Tennessee and sign the particular petition for the community in which they are registered.
  • Each registered voter’s signature will be counted only once.
  • Online petitions are not an option. The signatures must be written in ink.
  • If you sign the petition, your signature and printed name must match your voter registration card exactly.
  • Each completed petition must be certified by the election commission for each eligible municipality.

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