(WMC) - More than 13,000 Memphians signed a petition for an opportunity to vote on a referendum allowing wine in grocery stores, but some local liquor store owners say passing the bill could be damaging to the Tennessee economy.
"Larger liquor stores will obviously fair better," Buster's Liquors President Josh Hammond said. "There's no question it [wine bill] will cost Tennesseans jobs and businesses will go out of business."
In bright, luring colors, a promotion on the back of a recent Buster's Drink magazine reads "say no to wine in grocery stores" and "keep it local." Hammond said the store ran it to educate customers voting on the referendum this November.
Governor Bill Haslam signed the wine in grocery stores bill in March making way for local referendums. The law allows liquor stores to carry non-alcoholic products along with cigarettes; additionally, it's what says that grocery stores will be able to sell wine.
Voters in 76 Tennessee cities will cast ballots on these wine sales in order for the statewide legislation to work in their community. Memphians have the chance to vote after submitting thousands of signatures to the election commission, but residents in unincorporated Shelby Co. did not submit successful petitions and will not vote.
Hammond says if this passes in Memphis, Buster's could lose 25 to 50 percent of its business, which could mean losing four to eight employees.
"It's going to look to take a big chunk of our business away from us," he said. "We're kind of hoping they [voters] think about, shop local, and vote local."
Red White and Food — a coalition of retailers who want wine in grocery stores — has been advocating for the Tenn. wine bill for years, putting pressure on lawmakers with large campaigns and other pocket-sized operations like postcards.
The group argues local liquor stores in Tennessee can compete with grocery stores that sell wine. They say stores have made it in dozens of others states that allow these sales.
Volunteers with Red White and Food petitioned in Shelby County and others as the deadline for referendum petitions grew near in August. According to Red White and Food's Twitter account, they collected 262,247 signatures statewide.
Memphis voters will decide if the bill will pass Nov. 4. If approved, grocery stores can put wine on their shelves starting summer 2016.