Haslam Signs Grocery, Convenience Store Wine Bill Into Law

Will allow Tennessee supermarkets, c-stores to compete with liquor stores starting in 2016

Governor Bill Haslam Tennessee Wine Beer Liquor

Governor Bill Haslam

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After seven years of legislative debate, Governor Bill Haslam (R) on Thursday signed a law to allow supermarket and convenience store wine sales in Tennessee, reported the Associated Press.

While the concept of supermarket wine sales has broad public support according to various polls, the measure had failed in several consecutive legislative sessions amid opposition from liquor wholesalers and package store owners.

The legislation grants authority to cities and counties that have package stores or liquor-by-the-drink sales to hold referendums. And even after that, the earliest wine could be sold in supermarkets and c-stores would be in the summer of 2016--or a year later if they are located near an existing liquor store.

The measure also allows liquor stores to begin selling items other than alcohol.

Currently, supermarkets and c-stores can sell beer containing up to 6.5% alcohol by volume. Anything stronger can be sold only in package stores, which can't sell anything beyond alcohol and lottery tickets.

Haslam's stance on the issue has warmed since the 2010 governor's race, when he expressed reservations about the legislation that would directly affect the Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J truckstop chain owned by the Haslam family.

He remained neutral on the issue while it was before lawmakers, but had pledged not to block its enactment once it passed.

"I've always said that I would do whatever the will of the legislature is on this thing; and if they passed it that I would sign it," he told reporters after Thursday's event, said AP.

Click here for details on the bill.