Tennessee grocers today began selling wine for the first time, which a Food City executive heralded this morning as a victory for consumer choice.
At the St. Elmo Food City store — one of 69 Food City grocery outlets that began selling wine at 8 a.m. today — company officials heralded their newest offerings by uncorking giant wine bottles with confetti to mark what Food City Executive Vice President Mickey Blazer as "exciting day for the grocery industry and for the people of Tennessee."
"This has been a long time coming, but it helps establish a level playing field for selling wine all over the retail industry in Tennessee," Blazer told a gathering of political leaders, store employees and grocery consumers.
Prior to today, wine in Tennessee could only be sold at state-licensed liquor stores.
As Americans prepare to celebrate the July 4th independence day holiday, Blazer said allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores in Tennessee as it is in most neighboring states occurred because of public support for the change. The Tennessee Legislature approved selling wine in grocery stores in early 2014 and 78 municipalities and counties across Tennessee — including Chattanooga, East Ridge and Red Bank — voted in November 2014 to allow local grocery outlets to begin selling wine as of July 1, 2016.
"This celebration this morning is about a lot more than just being able to sell wine," Blazer said. "It's about living in a country that is free and is governed by and for the people and when the people speak, changes can be made."
Jim Winsett, president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga who bought the first bottle of wine during today's Food City celebration, also voiced support for the new law allowing grocery sales of wine.
"We're all very pleased to see this take place and to have this level of convenience to purchase wine at a grocery store," Winsett said.
Wine is on the shelves inside Chattanooga city limits at Food City, Publix, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Fresh Market, Earth Fare and Whole Foods, all of which had permits approved by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Jen Gregory, wine consultant in Chattanooga, said she expects public consumption and appreciation for wine to increase with wine being more readily available in grocery outlets across the state.