Wine petition drive deadline looms in Tennessee

Wine petition drive deadline looms in Tennessee

August 16th, 2014 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

A sign in a Kroger supermarket in Nashville urges shoppers to sign up for a group urging wine sales in grocery stores.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Wine in grocery store signatures:

Completed municipalities

Red Bank (complete):

Collected: 508

Required to get on ballot: 291

Lakesite (complete):

Collected: 141

Required: 60


Collected: 12,403

Required: 3,865


Collected: 211

Required: 185

East Ridge:

Collected: 702

Required: 520

Lookout Mountain:

Collected: 24

Required: 94

Signal Mountain:

Collected: 204

Required: 342


Collected: 682

Required: 333


Collected: 2

Required: 85

Unincorporated Hamilton County:

Collected: 3,324

Required: 3,246

Source: Red White and Food, Hamilton County Election Commission

NASHVILLE - Proponents say 12,403 people have so far signed Chattanooga petitions seeking a November referendum on wine sales in grocery stores.

But while that's technically more than triple the 3,865 needed to get the issue on the Nov. 4 ballot, advocates say that's no guarantee all the signatures are valid. Now the push is on for more with a Thursday deadline looming.

The key is getting residents who are registered voters and actually live within the city to sign the petition. A state law passed this year requires signatures equal to or exceeding 10 percent of the votes cast in the last governor's race to put the question on the ballot.

Officials with the advocacy group Red White and Food, meanwhile, say the Hamilton County Election Commission has already verified that signatures on petitions for Lakesite and Red Bank are valid and meet the requirement.

Once the election commission approves the ballot measures, residents in each those municipalities will be able to vote on the sale of wine in retail food stores.

But Susie Alcorn, campaign manager for Red White and Food, is urging registered voters to shake a leg in Chattanooga, Collegedale, East Ridge, Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, Soddy-Daisy, Walden and the unincorporated areas of Hamilton County.

"Time is running out for us to gather enough signatures in the remaining eligible cities in Hamilton County, and we encourage all registered voters to sign their local petitions," Alcorn said in a news release.

Figures supplied to the Times Free Press show the effort is struggling in some parts of the county.

On Lookout Mountain, for example, only 24 signatures have been collected while 94 are required. And on Signal Mountain, 204 have signed petitions but the requirement is 342. Just two people have signed in Walden, where 85 signatures are needed.

East Ridge and Soddy-Daisy have technically exceeded the requirement, but, again, supporters want more to ensure enough voting residents' names are on the list.

"I know that we're still collecting signatures," said Brenda Reid, a spokeswoman for Publix, which has four stores in the area. "We are hopeful we can get the numbers we need by the 21st [of August]. We'll be collecting all the way up until we've heard back" from the election commission.

Reid said food stores are pushing the issue because "it's more of a convenience" for customers who "ask us all the time" about wine.

Currently, local residents can go to Georgia and buy wine in grocery stores.

State Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, opposed this year's change in state law and said he hopes voters reject it at the ballot box.

"Listen, I'm opposed to that [expansion of alcohol sales] unequivocally in any form they want to put it," said Floyd who frets about "all the alcohol-related violence" on the road.

He said that in addition to petition forms in their establishments, stores ought to "have a donation box ... to pay for all the DUI damage around here. That's all we need -- more access to more alcohol."

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at or 615-255-0550.