Category Archives: alcoholic beverages

On opening day, 459 wine-in-grocery-stores licenses in effect

News release from Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission
Nashville, TN – Effective at 8:00 a.m. today, 459 licensed retail food stores across Tennessee may lawfully sell wine to persons over twenty-one (21) years old. The roll out of “wine in grocery stores,” also called WIGS, represents a milestone in the alcoholic beverage history of Tennessee.

Today marks the culmination of an enormous amount of hard work of Tennessee legislators, staff at the ABC, and industry representatives. WIGS illustrates that with cooperation, hard work, and professionalism, the public and private sectors can work together towards a common objective to ensure the success of a dramatic change in the law.

“The ABC cooperated with corporate executives, small business owners, legislators, industry representatives, and various state agencies to effectively implement a dramatic change in the law”, said Commissioner Mary McDaniel. “Commissioner Jones, Commissioner Kaegi, and I commend all parties involved for this hard work. As a commission, we remain committed to fostering a business-friendly environment that enforces the state’s law in a responsible manner and in a spirit of fairness and equity”.

As of this morning, all applicants who submitted the necessary paperwork hold a license to begin selling wine. ABC agents completed 578 site inspections by the end of business on Wednesday, and staff has completed reviews of 578 applications.

“Throughout the lengthy application process, I was impressed with the employees at the TABC” said Kenneth Osborne, owner of the Piggly Wiggly and Bi-Rite in Nashville. “They were happy to be helpful in explaining in detail every step that we needed to take and I was surprised at how efficiently they were able to process and issue licenses for the hundreds of applications received in such a short amount of time.”

Remaining applications, which were generally submitted in late May or mid-June, generally require proof of responsible vendor training for clerks and at least one designated manager before a license may be issued. Staff continues to consult with stores without a license to ensure all the requirements are completed.

“Licensed retail food stores in the state are authorized to sell wine July 1st and 2nd; however, under state law, the sale of wine is prohibited on Sunday and the Fourth of July holiday” said Clay Byrd Executive Director. “We want to encourage the public to be safe this weekend and to ask the industry to be diligent in fulfilling the detailed provisions of the new law.”

Next year’s booze bill: Liquor sales on Sundays?

In a lengthy review of change in Tennessee liquor laws, the highlight being wine in grocery stores, the Nashville Scene suggests the next step: Sunday sales of liquor and wine by the bottle.

Why should a grocery store be permitted to sell beer until 3 a.m. on Sundays but have to cut off wine sales at 11 p.m. and refuse to sell on Sundays? But in a compromise with the liquor retail industry, the grocery lobby agreed to the different hours, at least for now.

Everyone knows the fix is temporary. The question is, how long before it changes?

“I think maybe a year or two — let’s take a breather,” Ketron says of when he might introduce legislation syncing the days and times that wine and beer can be sold. “But it’s the next logical step that people want.”

Ketron points out that many people are skirting Sunday sales already by going to a restaurant, ordering a bottle of wine, sipping maybe half a glass, and then taking the bottle home under corkage provisions. Besides, distilleries in the state can already sell their wares on Sundays, meaning there is currently a legal way to buy liquor on the Lord’s Day.

Cheek thinks it will take a couple of tries to get Sunday sales through; Ketron estimates “up to five years.” But Ikard thinks if enough consumers contact their legislators this fall — and enough grocery store owners point out what a pain the law is — the change could be sooner.

“I think we could possibly change that next session,” Ikard says.

Even retailers seem resigned to the eventuality.

WIGS, guns-on-campus among laws taking effect July 1 (with list)

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Wine will be available in Tennessee supermarkets, professors will be allowed to carry guns on public college campuses, and drivers will be subject to stricter penalties for texting on the road, under new laws taking effect Friday.

Many bills passed by lawmakers this year took effect upon being signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, but others were linked to the start of the new budget year, which starts July 1.

The campus-carry bill was the result of heavy negotiations between gun-rights advocates and higher-education officials who opposed allowing more weapons on campus.

The law keeps gun bans in place for stadiums or gymnasiums during school-sponsored events; meetings where disciplinary or tenure issues are being discussed; hospitals or offices where medical or mental health services are provided; and any location prohibited by another law, such as at day care centers or elementary schools located on campus.

Those changes made the bill more palatable to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

“I was not in favor of that law to begin with, because whoever controls any piece of property should be able to decide what happens on that piece of property,” the governor told reporters this week. Continue reading

ABC says licenses issued to most WIGS applicants

News release from Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission
The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission announced today that it delivered, in less than one week, retail food store licenses to over 50% of grocery stores in the state applying to sell wine by July 1st.

With less than two weeks to go, the ABC has also issued conditional “letters of approval” to nearly 80% of grocery store applicants. Stores holding a conditional “letter of approval” are authorized to accept delivery and stock wine. Grocery stores without a letter of approval are either missing required documentation or were submitted closer to the upcoming rollout.

State legislators and industry representatives in previous weeks had expressed concern over the rollout of wine in grocery stores given the unexpected departure of the previous Executive Director just three months before the new law takes effect.

However, as of last week, the commission had received 499 applications, sent 398 letters of approval, and delivered 279 retail food store licenses. In other words, 70% of grocery stores holding a letter of approval have received a license in hand as of today, which is issued, effective, and post-dated to the date of July 1st. These stores will be authorized to sell wine effective 8:00 a.m. on July 1st. The ABC expects to deliver additional licenses to the remaining qualified stores in the next two weeks.

“We are so pleased that we have completed all the necessary requirements of the application process, and will have all 72 of our eligible stores licensed and ready to sell wine on July 1st”, said Melissa Eads, Kroger Nashville division spokesperson. “We are thankful to the ABC and the Tennessee Legislature for their leadership in bringing wine to retail food stores in Tennessee. Wine has been one of the most requested items in our stores for years, so we know our customers are looking forward to this as well.”

On May 24th, the Commissioners of the ABC appointed Clayton Byrd to serve as its Executive Director. “The staff at the ABC is working tirelessly to process applications, communicate with applicants, conduct site inspections, and verify statutory compliance with documentation.” Byrd said. “I’m committed to the success of this rollout and I’m proud of our team. This commission will continue to work diligently with the industry and in a business friendly manner to ensure continued success.”

Alcoholic Beverage Commission hires new executive director

The state Alcoholic Beverage Commission has selected attorney Clay Byrd as its new executive director, reports The Tennessean.

Byrd, 31, previously served as assistant general counsel for the Tennessee Comptroller of the Secretary. Before that, he worked as an attorney for the legislature, where he helped develop alcohol regulations.

Byrd, who will officially start in two weeks, will take over for Ginna Winfree, who entered the position on an interim basis in late March after then-executive director Keith Bell abruptly resigned.

Although the reasons for Bell’s departure remain unclear, some worried the timing could complicate the rollout of the new wine in grocery stores law.

Further complicating matters, Winfree was expected to join Nashville-based law firm Gullett Sanford Robinson and Martin, a firm with several attorneys and lobbyists who work on alcohol-related issues. Winfree was set to join the law firm in April but opted to serve as interim executive director of the commission until a new one was selected.

After Byrd was congratulated by Mary McDaniel, who serves as chairwoman of the three-member commission, for his selection, he promised to be “business friendly, objective and fair.”

McDaniel later told The Tennessean that Byrd was one of more than 20 applicants for the position.

Byrd said he understands people are keeping a close eye on the rollout of the wine in grocery stores law, while offering assurances that he will work quickly to ensure its success.

“This is a large undertaking,” he said. “I saw it as an avenue to contribute to the public good, and that’s the reason I got involved in public service to begin with.”

Multiple Pilot stations seeking WIGS licenses

In Knoxville, 22 of the 52 local businesses applying to sell wine under a state law taking effect July 1 are Pilot Flying J stations, according to the News-Sentinel.

“The general way people call it is ‘wine in grocery stores,’ but it’s actually somewhat of a misnomer,” said Rob Frost, attorney for Knoxville City Council, which approves all of certificates of compliance. “If you sell above a certain percent of food, you don’t truly have to truly be a grocery store.”

In fact, only 20 percent of a business’s sales must come from retail food, according to the law passed in 2014. The law goes into effect on July 1.

Of the 52 compliance certificates issued so far, Food City has received 10, Kroger nine and Walmart four.

Alyson Dyer, an attorney with the city law office, said she expects more applications to be submitted.

The permits to sell wine are issued by the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission, but the agency requires a compliance certificate from the local government along with a business’s application.

To receive a compliance certificate, a business must fill out an application with the city, have a background check completed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations and receive confirmation from the Metropolitan Planning Commission that the store is correctly zoned for selling alcohol.

Note: A bill recently approved by the legislature prohibits anyone from owning more than two liquor store, but that applies only to sellers of distilled liquors, not those selling only wine.

WIGS fix goes to governor, liquor store limit intact

By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The House passed a bill Monday to impose a cap on liquor store ownership in Tennessee, sending the measure that some Republicans derided as contrary to free market principles to Gov. Bill Haslam’s desk.

The chamber voted 72-16 to pass the measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Curry Todd of Collierville after extensive debate about why the state should protect package store owners from competition.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick argued that the measure is aimed at preventing out-of-state liquor store chains from setting up shop in Tennessee and tried to dissuade members from the claim that limiting ownership would restrict the flow of alcohol in the state.

“We’re not stopping one drop of liquor from pouring,” said McCormick, R-Chattanooga. “What we’re doing is we’re deciding who makes the money off of it.”
Continue reading

Bill to revise ABC appointments dies

A subcommittee has killed a bill to have the House and Senate speakers each appoint a member to the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission — a proposal that had described as a compromise with Gov. Bill Haslam by Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron.

The death of SB2095 in the House State Government Subcommittee on Wednesday was followed by the abrupt resignation of ABC Executive Director Keith Bell on Thursday, the day Ketron had scheduled a Senate floor vote on the measure.

Ketron canceled plans for the vote without comment on the Senate floor and could not be reached for comment over the weekend after speculation — and a declaration from a legislative staffer requesting anonymity — that the two events were related.

The Tennessean newspaper reported that Bell gave no reason for his resignation, announced in an email Thursday to legislators and alcoholic beverage industry lobbyists and lawyers. The resignation comes with the ABC gearing up to handle hundreds of new license applications for the sale of wine in grocery stores, as authorized by legislation enacted in 2014 that takes effect July 1 of this year.
Continue reading

State ABC chief resigns with WIGS work hanging

Keith Bell, named executive director of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission in 2013, has abruptly announced his resignation from the position in an email to legislators and lobbyists, reports The Tennessean.

The resignation comes with the ABC facing a heavy workload as it prepares for the beginning of wine sales in grocery store starting July 1. And the No. 2 administrator at the ABC is planning to leave in April.

“It’s unfortunate that he’s resigning at this point, because of the need for stability in the department,” said (Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill) Ketron, adding he was “shocked” at Bell’s resignation.

“We didn’t need any instability only 90 days away from implementation from that piece of legislation going into effect.”

Bell notified lawmakers and lobbyists of his decision in an email Thursday. In the email, obtained by The Tennessean, Bell gives few details as to the reason for his departure. He has been executive director of the agency since 2013.

“I have enjoyed my time with each of you and appreciate all your hard work. Keep up the good jobs y’all are doing and thank you,” Bell said in the email.

…Commission Assistant Director Gina Winfree is set to temporarily lead the commission, according to an announcement emailed by Nashville-based law firm Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin, a firm with several attorneys and lobbyists who focus on alcohol-related issues. But Winfree won’t remain at the commission for long: She’s set to join GSRM as an attorney at some point in late April, according to the firm.

…”Hopefully, the administration and the board will find a new director with a strong administrative and enforcement background, but someone who will not be as egregious in punitive fines for all sectors of the industry,” said Randy Rayburn, a longtime Nashville restaurant executive who owns Midtown Cafe and Cabana.

Leading the ABC is a tough position that easily puts a person at odds with different parts of the industry, said Nashville attorney Will Cheek. Although Cheek, a food and beverage attorney at Bone McAllester Norton, said Bell leaves big shoes to fill, he said the departure may signal the ABC isn’t ready for the influx of applications.

“He may have left now before the train wreck happens,” Cheek said.

Gov, legislators strike deal on appointing liquor regulators

Legislators have struck a deal with Gov. Bill Haslam on control of appointments to the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission, according to Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron.

Ketron announced the compromise to the Senate State and Local Government Committee last week in presenting an amendment to SB2095. The measure was then unanimously approved by the panel.

Under current law, the governor appoints all three members of the ABC, which regulates the state’s system for sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages — except beer, which is mostly left to local governments.

As introduced, the bill would have expanded the number of commission members from seven, letting the governor keep three appointments but giving the speakers of the House and Senate two appointments each. The governor’s appointees would thus become a minority on the panel with legislative appointees holding a 4-3 majority.

As amended, the bill will instead expand the commission to five members — the governor keeping three appointees and each speaker getting one appointment. Haslam will thus keep a majority of the appointments, Ketron said, but legislators will “have more eyes working with the (ABC executive) director … to give him more direction” with the state’s alcoholic beverage industry in an expansion mode.

To avoid increasing taxpayer costs, Ketron said, the bill also reduces the payment to ABC members from $500 for every ABC meeting “whether they show up or not” to $300 per meeting. And there’s a provision that says any member missing more than half of ABC meetings in a calendar year will lose his or her seat.

Ketron said — “no offense to the current members” — that in five of the ABC regular monthly meetings during 2014 only two commissioners attended; and that in 2015, there were six meetings with only two commissioners on hand.