Wine In The Grocery Store

2 Mar

As you may or may not know, Tennessee has some peculiar liquor laws. It’s decided county-by-county whether or not to serve alcohol in restaurants. Some counties are completely dry, and some counties sell beer but don’t have liquor stores. As a seasoned drinker, waitress and a six-year resident, I know the alcohol laws in Nashville pretty well now.

I used to frequent a liquor store on the west side of town when I lived over that way, the sign in the window only said whiskey and that’s what I thought the name was. It’s actually attached to a convenience store and a meat and three that all share the name Wendell Smith’s. Passed down from father to son-in-law, this business is still family owned. I asked the older man behind the counter what the hours were one day early in my Nashville residency. He replied in his deep southern accent “We’re open as early as the law allows us, ’til as late as the law allows us, every day that the law allows us.” Classic. That means Monday through Saturday from 8am to 11pm, closed on Sundays.

The liquor stores here are only allowed to sell alcohol that is 6% ABV (alcohol by volume) or more. That means no beer under 6%, only high alcohol beer, wine and liquor. No snacks, no mixers and no corkscrews. Just alcohol. If the alcohol is in a gift box containing a shaker or glasses, that shall be sold, but only in the package as one item. Beer under 6% ABV is sold in grocery stores and markets, but only between certain hours. I believe it’s 6am to 3am Monday through Saturday, and 12pm to 3am on Sunday. They may have passed a law to make sales a little earlier on Sunday, but it’s been a long time since I needed a beer that early (it’s usually whiskey).

When I was younger I can remember running through the gas station at 2:55am, having just gotten off of work, trying to buy beer before it was too late. I can also remember waiting outside of gas stations until noon on Sundays to buy beer for canoe trips. The restaurant alcohol laws are pretty much the same as the beer sales laws. No booze shall be sold in a restaurant after 3am. There was a time, as a bartender in a dive bar, I would lock the door and stick up a “private party” sign at 3am so my customers could continue drinking and playing illegal poker until it was time to leave for church Sunday morning. You just have to know how to get around the laws a bit here in the bible belt, I think it adds to the appeal.

The “wine in grocery stores” battle has been going on for a few years here in Nashville. I like to consider myself a very liberal person, but this is something I don’t care for. I am the only person that I know that has a problem with wine being sold in grocery stores, but it’s hardly for the reasons you would think. The liquor store owners are going to suffer. There are many nights when I stop by the grocery store for dinner ingredients then hit the liquor store for adult beverages. Often I see the people who were checking out at the grocery store doing the same thing. The liquor store will lose that business, and in our ever declining economy I feel like that is an unfair advantage. I believe that competition is good, but these stores are located next to each other for a reason.

Aside from the loss of business, think about the shoplifting of wine in grocery stores, mostly by underage teens I would assume. I have worked in a grocery store and I know from experience that the security is not so good. In a liquor store there are cameras and an owner with a gun or a baseball bat. Liquor stores are small with only one entrance and one exit, usually the same one. There are no high shelves or hidden corners so the employees are able to see absolutely everything. The employees in grocery stores are not used to dealing with drunks the way liquor store owners are. Some of our liquor stores here in Nashville even have undercover police that hang around inside and watch for trouble, will they have to hang around in grocery stores now?

I understand that many other states carry this out without a problem, but I feel like this will take away some of the innocence that our southern state is known for. Overall the law will probably pass on through and I’ll be buying wine in the grocery store without so much as a second though.


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