Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission Announces Rule for Tennessee Liquor Stores Selling Beer, Snacks and other Merchandise

Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission Announces Rule for Tennessee Liquor Stores Selling Beer, Snacks and other Merchandise

The Tennessee Wine in Grocery Law (which we affectionately call WIGS) legalizes the sale of beer, cups, ice, corkscrews and other previously verboten merchandise by liquor stores.  Liquor stores get a head start on groceries and can start selling the broader range of merchandise beginning on July 1, 2014 - two years ahead of when grocery stores can sell wine. We summarized the new privileges here.

But WIGS imposes limitations on qualifying for the new privileges for liquor stores located within 500 feet of a grocery store, or in a shopping center with a grocery. We expect the 500 foot rule to impact many Tennessee liquor stores.

WIGS does not specify when the 500 foot limitation becomes effective or how a store will demonstrate compliance.

The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission recently issued informal guidance for retail liquor stores interested in taking advantage of the new rights to sell beer, cups, ice and corkscrews. The TABC recently posted:

In order for a retail package liquor store [retailer] currently licensed pursuant to T.C.A. 57-3-204 to sell at retail additional items, including low gravity beer and other malt beverages, as provided in T.C.A. 57-3-404(e), beginning July 1, 2014, said retailer must either (1) give specific written permission allowing the sale of wine to all retail food stores within 500 feet of its location and provide copies of the written permission to the TABC; (2) provide a certified survey from a licensed surveyor indicating no retail food stores are located within 500 feet of the retailer's location; or (3) provide and submit to the TABC blanket written permission allowing the sale of wine to any and all current or future retail food stores that may or may not be within 500 feet of its location. Additionally, if said retailer is located within a shopping center or other similar development the retailer must document that no restrictions or limitations are imposed on the sale of wine or alcoholic beverage upon any entity located within said shopping center or development.
July 1 is fast approaching. We encourage liquor stores to take full advantage of WIGS as soon as possible. Industry experts predict that WIGS will cause many liquor stores to go out of business.

We see early adoption of the new WIGS rights as key to survival. No one is going to get rich on selling the extra items, but convenience may tip the scales toward survival of a liquor store, when Kroger starts selling Yellow Tail.

How 500 feet is measured is potentially an open question. According to WIGS, 500 feet is "measured from building to building using the outside wall of the confines of the retail food store to the outside wall of the confines of" the liquor store.  In a strip mall, we presume this means 500 feet from the interior wall of the grocery to the closest interior wall of the retail liquor store.

We hope that the Tennessee ABC clarifies the method for measuring the distance before too many liquor stores spend hundreds of dollars on surveys.

Brings to mind the 1966 Who classic Whiskey Man:

Whiskey man's my friend
He's with me nearly all the time
He always joins me when I drink
And we get on just fine.
There are many unanswered questions raised by WIGS and we encourage liquor store owners to stay tuned.

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