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Supermarket wine sales bill headed to governor

by LUCAS L. JOHNSON II Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Legislation that would let voters decide whether their cities or counties allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores has been sent to the governor, who is expected to sign the measure into law.

The Senate, which passed its version of the bill 23-8 in January, on Monday approved minor changes made by the House when the lower chamber passed its version of the bill 71-15 last month.

"This bill has been around a long time," said Senate sponsor Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro. "I think the members of this body and members in the House actually listened to the people who are going to have that opportunity to purchase wine in grocery stores."

The proposal would grant authority to cities and counties that have package stores or liquor-by-the-drink sales to hold referendums on whether to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.

It also allows local votes to take place as early as this fall but would not allow supermarket wine sales until July 2016 at the earliest.

Under current law, supermarkets and convenience stores can sell beer containing up to 6.5 percent alcohol by volume. Anything stronger can be sold only in package stores, which can't sell anything beyond booze and lottery tickets.

In working out their differences, lawmakers agreed to require convenience stores to have at least 1,200 square feet to qualify for a wine sales license, and for the licensing fee to be $1,250.

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