Sunday liquor sales bill sparks debate among retailers, consumers

Sunday liquor sales bill sparks debate among retailers, consumers

NASHVILLE, TN (AP/WMC) - A bill that would allow liquor sales on Sunday in Tennessee has passed the House after an impassioned debate from lawmakers, several of them citing scripture.

The measure would allow grocery stores to sell wine on Sundays and liquor stores to be open for business that day from the hours of 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The bill is popular with Tennessee residents but has sparked a divide among retailers.

Many consumers said they love the idea of being able to buy wine every day of the week.

"I don't really see the harm in it," customer Christina Vizzari said.

But independently-owned liquor stores like Doc's Wine and Spirits in East Memphis said they're feeling the pressure.

"You're basically taking six days of sales and dividing it over seven days and you're increasing your expenses but not necessarily your income," Doc's General Manager Ryan Gill said.

With a 55-35 vote, the Tennessee House of Representatives approved a bill Monday that would give local retailers the option to be open and sell wine and spirits seven days a week.

Gill said the legislation puts smaller liquor stores at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with larger chains.

"That's one thing we aren't able to count on--at least the biggest day of the week for them--they couldn't sell wine before, but now they can. So it is going to affect us, unfortunately," Gill said.

The Senate is scheduled to hear the bill Wednesday, and state Senator Brian Kelsey (R) said he plans to vote yes.

"This bill is really a compromised bill. It's had some concessions put in for example that liquor stores will be able to start selling earlier than grocery stores, so I'm hoping those will have some positive effects," Sen. Kelsey said.

An amendment added to the bill would bar the sales of liquor and wine at grocery stores on Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving.

"We just have to find new ways to grow and new ways to compete," Gill said.

Representatives with the Tennessee Grocers and Convenience Store Association are also in favor of the bill and released this statement:

"The retail food stores of Tennessee look forward to being able to offer maximum convenience to our customers.  We are optimistic that the state Senate will concur with the House's good decision to allow seven-day sales of wine starting January 1."

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.