East Tennessee Communities Lead Wine Charge

Jul 14, 2014

Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

Six Tennessee communities have collected enough petition signatures to place wine referenda on their respective ballots in November.

All six are in East Tennessee.

According to the advocacy group Red, White and Food, residents of Clinton, Morristown, Church Hill, Rogersville, Loudon and Newport have all collected the minimum number of signatures required to force a ballot referendum on whether their local grocery stores should be able to offer wine. 

The petition signatures in five of the six communities have yet to be verified by their county elections commissions.  The Cocke County commission has already verified the signatures collected in Newport.

Governor Bill Haslam signed the wine-in-stores legislation into law on March 20.  As part of a compromise deal with liquor store retailers, individual communities are required to pass a referendum before wine can be offered in their grocery stores. 

Voters in cities and municipalities that qualify to hold referenda have until August 21 to secure the proper number of petition signatures.  In order to qualify, a community has to already allow liquor-by-the-drink and/or liquor store sales.  Red, White and Food estimates at least 70 Tennessee communities qualify.

“Red White and Food is pleased at the level of support in East Tennessee, and communities across the state are working hard to collect the number of signatures needed,” said Red, White and Food Campaign Manager Susie Alcorn in a statement to WUOT News.  “We need as many registered voters as possible to sign their local petition so that the wine in retail food stores question will go on the ballot for the vote in November.”

Red, White and Food is a non-profit organization that represents some of the large grocery retailers in Tennessee, including Publix, Food City and Kroger.  The group began its campaign for petitions in June.