Legislation that would let Tennesseans in certain communities vote on whether to allow the sale of wine in retail food stores via a local referendum has been sent to the governor for his signature. Action on the Senate Bill 837 came after the Senate approved amendments placed on the bill by the House of Representatives. Those amendments change the minimum square footage requirements for newly licensed food stores able to sell wine to 1,200 square feet and sets the cost of the license at $1,250.
The referendum bill applies to communities that currently allow retail package stores, liquor-by-the-drink establishments or both. In order to place the referendum on the ballot, a petition must be presented to the county election commission where the referendum is to be held. The petition must include signatures from 10 percent of the jurisdiction’s population that voted in the last gubernatorial election. The first opportunity that a referendum could be on the ballot is November 2014. If approved by the voters, wine sales in food stores could begin on July 1, 2016.
Thirty-six states, including six of Tennessee’s border states, allow the sale of wine in retail food stores.