Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cops against grocery store wine

Police group opposes wine in grocery stores bill

The Tennessean, Jan 9, 2013 -A group of Tennessee police officers urged lawmakers not to embrace a proposal to let grocery stores sell wine, fortifying their position ahead of a renewed push for the bill this year in the state legislature.

Calling themselves Tennessee Law Enforcement for Strong Alcohol Laws, police chiefs, sheriffs and other officers from around the state held a press conference Wednesday to argue that changes to the state’s liquor laws could encourage binge drinking and divert police resources. (link)

A response  from:

Earlier today, a group of law enforcement officials held a news conference at Legislative Plaza to come out against the sale of wine in retail food stores. Their main argument was an increase in underage drinking, which studies have shown is not an effect of allowing wine in retail food stores in the 36 other states already allowing these sales.

Today’s conference is the first time in the five years the issue has been debated that law enforcement members have officially come out against the issue. We look forward to a continued discussion with them and representatives of the liquor stores about increasing Tennessee wine sales, and we look forward to Tennesseans’ having the opportunity to vote on it.

Below is a statement from Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association president Jarron Springer in response to the conference:

It is disappointing that the liquor retailers would hide behind law enforcement officials in an effort to keep Tennessee consumers from having a voice in the wine in retail food stores debate.

A vote by the legislature in favor of the proposed bill will not place wine in our stores. Passage would only allow local communities to decide through a referendum as to whether wine would be available at retail food stores.

We respect law enforcement and have worked closely with them on the issue of underage drinking. The issue of wine in retail food stores has been debated for five years, and the statements made today mark the first time that a group of law enforcement officials has officially come out against the measure. We can only take that as a sign that the liquor lobby is concerned about the possibility of the bill passing and led the effort to bring the group together this morning.

If law enforcement is concerned about increased access to alcoholic beverages, then surely they will be opposed to future referendums on liquor-by-the-drink and package store availability, which are also handled on the local level.

The statement that increased access to wine is a public safety issue has been proved false by numerous sources, including the FBI. Wine sales in retail food stores are not linked to drunk driving or underage drinking. A study issued in December 2011 by the American Association of Wine Economists and Cornell University showed that “states with higher rates of wine consumption as a share of total alcohol consumption have lower rates of traffic fatalities.”

In addition, states that allow the sale of wine in grocery stores had an average of 21.7 fewer youth liquor violations per 100,000 residents than did states without wine in grocery stores (FBI).

Tennessee’s retail food stores asked for and helped to pass the Responsible Vendor Law. Under this law, all customers purchasing alcohol at a retail food store must show proof of age. Liquor stores do not have to abide by the same requirements.

Again, retail food stores look forward to a healthy and civil legislative debate on the subject of wine in retail food stores and the bill to allow local referendums. Upward of 70 percent of Tennesseans want to purchase wine where they shop for food. We urge the Tennessee General Assembly to let Tennesseans vote on this issue.

My Comment: The argument by these law enforcement officers does not hold water. We now have beer in convenience markets and malt based "wine cooler."  Are we really to believe that having wine in convenience stores will increase illegal and irresponsible teen drinking? The same Responsible Vendor Law that now applies will still apply. 

Both the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor support wine in grocery stores and we have a Republican super majority in both chambers. There is no excuse for wine in grocery stores not passing this year.

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