By Matt Masters
Tucker Herndon, a partner with Burr and Forman law firm, spoke at the Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce connection luncheon Aug. 15 at Rutland Place to inform business leaders of the changes to sales of wine, beer and liquor, especially regarding wine sales in grocery stores.
Herndon was instrumental in the wine in grocery stores legislation that went into effect in 2016. He said it was the biggest change in the legislation of alcohol since the end of prohibition.
Herndon educated the audience of more than 50 people about the steps to implement and the results of the legislation that was popular for many Tennesseans in a presentation called, “A Journey into Wine Inside Grocery Stores Law.”
The “Red, White and Food” campaign needed 10 percent of registered voters in each jurisdiction to get the referendum off the ground, which made its way to the legislature March 30, 2017. The bill passed, and by June 20, 2016, the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission received 499 WIGS applications that resulted in 398 letters of approval and 279 licenses granted.
“We’re realizing that things in the ’50s and ’60s are not how people today view or vote in today’s arena, and based upon that, I think that people are more susceptible to understand that as long as we do it in a responsible approach, that we should provide all of the citizens of the state of Tennessee to different goods,” Herndon said. “It’s not limited to just alcoholic beverages. Whatever industry we’re talking about – having the ability to provide them access and unfettered access to a degree.”
Herndon said precautions and restrictions were placed on the sale of wine in grocery stores to help both communities and business owners provide alcoholic beverages responsibly.
Some of the restrictions included the requirement of managers and clerks to have training to limit sales to retailers whose food sales equal at least 20 percent of total sales, which means gas stations are excluded from selling wine.
Wine must also have a minimum 20 percent markup in grocery stores, which was done to appease liquor stores, which had no competition in wine sells before July 2016.
In contrast, local laws govern beer, and the Alcohol Beverage Control board controls liquor sales in the state.
Wine will first be sold in grocery stores on Sundays, beginning Jan. 6, 2019 at 10 a.m., but consumers will not be able to buy wine on Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter.
Herndon also talked about a new change to how alcohol might be gotten – deliveries at homes – legally. Herndon said it wouldn’t be long before companies like Amazon take advantage of the desires of their customers and the laws that allow people and companies to shop for customers.
Herndon said new rules were also put in place for package stores, including no liquor store to be within 1,500 feet of another. Mt. Juliet allows only one store per 8,000 people – currently there are three package stores in Mt. Juliet. No new licenses will be granted until 2021, and the rules were put in place to retain completion and survival of liquor store businesses as completion has increased from wine in grocery stores.
Herndon also spoke about other changes that are outside of WIGS but to the changes in culture around alcohol.
Herndon said so-called “open carry laws” allow patrons to go between adjacent restaurants and bars with open container drinks as long as patrons do not use public walkways to do so. This is currently restricted to beer, and vendors must use branded cups. Herndon also said the implementation of vertical licenses for minors helps bars, restaurants and stores from serving alcohol to minors.
Another change Herndon touched on were the alcoholic beverage trial programs that are implemented at Middle Tennessee State University and Tennessee State University to allow alcohol to be sold on game days.
Finally, Herndon said the Tennessee ABC board implemented a program in January called the Regulatory Licensing and Permitting System, which upgraded the process to get licensed to sell alcohol.