Battle brewing over wine shipping restrictions

Image credit: Free the Grapes

The first round in what could be this year’s big booze fight is scheduled for the House Departments and Agencies Subcommittee on Tuesday. The bill sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) seeks to place greater restrictions on direct shipment of wine to Tennessee consumers. The move is backed by the state’s liquor wholesalers and retailers, while it is opposed by a national wine industry group calling itself “Free the Grapes!”

The bill would only allow wineries to ship wine themselves, rather than using so-called fulfillment houses to handle the logistics for them. Supporters say the change would return the law to its original intent, which was to allow oenophiles to obtain hard-to-find wines directly from the source. Allowing winemakers to use clearinghouses to send their product far and wide circumvents the state’s strictly regulated system for distributing (and taxing) alcohol, they argue.

Opponents say consumers like the flexibility of having wine delivered straight to their homes — especially during the pandemic. Read the full release from the Free the Grapes group below.

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Sunday wine and liquor sales bill heads to governor

The Senate has approved a bill to allow wine and liquor to be sold on Sundays. The 17 votes the bill received were the bare minimum necessary to clear the chamber. Eleven senators voted against the bill sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro).

The bill will go into effect upon signature by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who has said he will defer to the will of the legislature on the matter (UPDATE: He tells The Tennessean he will sign it). That means liquor stores will immediately be able to open their doors to the public on Sundays. Supermarkets will be able to follow suit starting on Jan. 1.

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