WIGS petition drives underway statewide

The push to put wine in grocery stores entered its second phase Monday, as supporters launched a statewide campaign to get the issue on the November ballot.

Further from The Tennessean:

Red White and Food kicked off an effort to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures in the 156 communities where wine could be sold in grocery stores, if voters approve. The campaign comes after the General Assembly approved a wine-in-grocery-stores measure after years of legislative battles that pitted supermarkets against the state’s politically powerful liquor stores and wholesalers.

“The bill’s passage was just the beginning of the process,” said Melissa Eads, a spokeswoman for Kroger. “The campaign is far from over.”

The law signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in March requires voters to hold a local referendum before food retailers can begin stocking wine on their shelves. To get on the ballot, supporters must collect signatures from at least 10 percent of the voters in each community if they want wine sold in their local grocery store.

In Metro Nashville, that would require more than 15,000 signatures on a petition.

Red White and Food and its allies have until Aug. 21 to put together their petitions to appear on the November ballot. If voters then approve, grocery stores can begin selling wine on July 1, 2016.

“We really have a very significant challenge before us,” said House Speaker Beth Harwell, who pushed the wine bill through the legislature.

Red White and Food hopes to reach its goal asking shoppers to sign at their local supermarket. Kroger, H.G. Hill, Cash Saver, Food Lion and Publix plan to take part in the drive.

There are multiple accounts of local petition drives in Tennessee media today. A couple of other samples:

From Memphis:
In Shelby County, supporters must petition for separate referendums in each of the seven cities and the unincorporated part of the county too. So it’s not just about getting enough signatures in Memphis.

“You’ve got to get enough signatures in Collierville, Germantown, Bartlett, Arlington, etc. So it’s a little more complicated than it might be in other parts of the state,” Joe Bell from Kroger said. Also, petitions must be signed by the registered voter in that particular town.

For example, if you live in Memphis you cannot sign a petition in Bartlett. It will not count. In order to make it on the ballot, the number of signatures in each city has to equal at least ten percent of the votes casts in the last election for governor.

From the Tri-Cities:
Food City President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Smith said the petition drives will happen at more than 50 Food City locations in East Tennessee, but he also recognized competitors who want to sell wine at the retail level.

“I think it’s very important we recognize the Krogers, the WalMarts, the Food Lions, the Publix, the BiLos, the independents across the state of Tennessee. … While we compete in our day jobs for customers, in our secondary job we work well together to be able to say, ‘Let’s make this (wine sales) possible for our consumers.’… We’re all working through the summer to get these petitions filled out,” Smith said during the petition kickoff event held at the Eastman Road Food City location (in Kingsport).

From Knoxville:
Zach Abbott, assistant store manager for the Morrell Road Food City, greeted a steady flow of customers who signed the petition on Monday.

Abbott said his store has seen a healthy response of customers supporting the drive for wine in grocery stores.

“We started signing people up over Memorial Day weekend and had a really good turnout,” said Abbott.

“We’ve got close to 600 signatures so far.”