NASHVILLE - Supporters of allowing wine to be sold in retail food stores plan to kick off referendum petition drives in major Tennessee cities, including Chattanooga, on Monday.
A news conference is slated for 10 a.m. in Chattanooga at the Publix Super Market at 5928 Hixson Pike in Hixson.
Coordination of similar news conferences in Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis and Kingsport is being handled by Red White and Food, the nonprofit organization comprised of food retailers. The group waged a years-long struggle in the state Legislature to change Tennessee law to allow wine sales in food stores.
Red White and Food board members representing a variety of retail food stores will officially kick off the effort and will discuss the petition approval process. They will be joined by state lawmakers, including those who sponsored the referendum legislation.
In Chattanooga, state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, will join Brenda Reid, media relations manager for Publix, and speak at the news conference.
After years of effort, state lawmakers during this year's legislative session passed a bill legalizing wine sales provided local voters approve them in a referendum.
Only cities and counties that previously approved liquor by the drink or package store sales are eligible to have a wine-in-grocery store referendum.
To get the wine referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot, eligible communities must submit petitions to their county election commissions with at least as many valid signatures from registered voters that would equal 10 percent of residents who votes in the last governor's race.
Only registered voters can sign the petition and can only sign once. Petitions must be completed and verified by county election commissions by Aug. 21.
Under a deal cut in the Legislature, communities where the referendum passes, retail food stores will be able to sell wine beginning July 1, 2016.
Red White and Food is supported by a number of Tennessee retail food stores from across the state and the Tennessee Retail Association. The following stores plan to have petitions available for customers to sign throughout the summer: Cash Saver, Food City, Food Lion, H.G. Hill, Kroger, Publix and Superlo Foods.
A schedule of signature collection opportunities will be posted to Red White and Food's website and Facebook and Twitter accounts.