Thursday, January 10, 2013

LONG ARM OF THE LAW OPPOSES WINE SALES IN OUR GROCERY STORES (someone check liquor lobby donations to state police coffers, please?)

photo courtesy of Mark Humphrey/AP (well, it's not really "courtesy" of Mark, I ripped it from a newspaper article without his permission...)
If you live in a state where wine is sold alongside beer and crackers at your local Kroger or Publix supermarket, you probably don't think twice about seeing chardonnays on display at the same store that sells laundry detergent and light bulbs.  But if you reside in the great state of Tennessee, you never see those items for sale at the same location.
In fact, while you can purchase beer at our groceries, wine and liquor are restricted to liquor stores that aren't allowed to sell anything BUT wine and liquor.  No mixers, no corkscrews, no chips, cheeses, or crackers.  Not only that, but our archaic laws prevent one individual from owning more than one liquor store within the state's borders.
The liquor lobby in Tennessee is almost as powerful (and fearsome) as the gun lobby.  In fact, getting these silly shit rules changed in Tennessee always ends up in failure, while absolutely insane laws involving handguns almost always sail through our General Assembly like cheap wine through a teenager on a Friday night.
But recent polls and surveys show a vast majority of Volunteer State residents want these restrictions changed, and there have been some indications that a bill to that effect might even make it out of committee at Legislative Plaza in Nashville.
Or at least, there was hope.
Yep, hope took a backseat in a squad car yesterday when seventeen police officers, chiefs of police, and sheriffs, many in uniform, stopped by for a press conference at the Legislative Plaza to urge lawmakers to leave the state's liquor laws as they currently stand: stupid.
According to an article in this morning's The Tennessean, (motto: "Featuring photos of teen music icons instead of hard news, because we know what you people really want!") a group calling themselves Tennessee Law Enforcement for Strong Alcohol Laws (or TLEFSAL... catchy, isn't it?) insists that allowing wine to be sold at grocery stores would result in binge drinking and divert police resources.
Knoxville's Police Chief David Rausch spoke at the news conference, and as proof that such changes to the law would certainly lead to binge behavior among young people, he cited an incident in which a University of Tennessee fraternity member was hospitalized after ingesting a box of cheap wine through a hose and funnel inserted into his rectum.  Nevermind that the kid in question purchased his grape enema at a liquor store and NOT at an area Kroger... (don't confuse the issue with facts!)
(Here's a news flash for the men in blue:  kids are going to binge drink whether you sell wine at Kroger or not.  And for the record, I've never seen anyone at a liquor store in Tennessee ask for an ID card, but I have to produce one every time I buy a twelve pack of beer at the grocery store.)
No, if we're honest we'll admit that this is about keeping the good ol' boy network of liquor lobbyists happy in Nashville.  They fear open competition with supermarkets for wine sales, because they know huge chain stores like Kroger, Publix, Food Lion, and Walmart will be able to offer lower prices for consumers of wine than they currently offer at their monopolistic liquor stores.  Those liquor store owners are issuing dire warnings about layoffs and reduced hours for their employees if such legislation is allowed to pass, ignoring the fact that increased hours and hiring at thousands of grocery stores would more than make up for any losses on their part...
Not only that, but sales of wines at grocery stores would almost certainly result in higher alcohol tax revenues for this revenue starved state.  It's a fact that a lot of area soccer moms who would never be caught dead in a liquor store might be willing to pick up a bottle of wine if it were available when they shop for groceries. 
And here's another thing to keep in mind, if you're scoring this at home:  our lawmakers receive millions of dollars in campaign donations from the liquor lobby.  They are wined and dined at some of Nashville's finest restaurants every legislative session by people who are oh-so-concerned about the welfare of little Jimmy and his friends getting their hands on grocery store hooch... and they want to make sure our distinguished public servants stay on top of this threat to our children.
What horseshit...
These are the same legislators who will propose laws allowing Jimmy's feeble old algebra teacher to pack a Glock under her support hose this fall, too.  Because it's all about the kids.
Go figure.


Katy Anders said...

I'm trying to picture the sort of scenario that the police are worried about:

Me: "Dum-de-dum, here I am shopping for groceries... Eggs, Bread, milk, and... What is this? Wine? Hmm.... I wonder what that is. Maybe I'll try some in the car on the way home!"

Louisiana sells hard liquor in every grocery store, gas station, and laundromat in the state... That actually might be an argument in favor of the Tenn. cops, come to think of it...

Mooner Jonnson Says Fuck Walmart said...

Squat. I can fully understand their fears.

Guns don't kill--Chardonnay kills!

Imagine some mother of three young'uns at the local Kroger whose day has already been pretty shitty before her 3 pm trip for the week's groceries.

A full aisle of wine selections might simple be too fucking much.

Fuck Walmart.

squatlo said...

Katy, part of their "concern" seems to be the possibility of every Mapco and Kwik SaK being able to sell wine if Kroger can, so you might be right.

Still, they are far (!) more vigilant at convenience and grocery stores about age IDs than at liquor stores I've visited.

It's really all about the lobbyists' influence over our corrupt legislative process. If I had billions of dollars I could prove this by making it illegal to sell Doritos in any market other than Doritos-licensed stores. Money talks and walks big time in this state.

Kulkuri said...

Katy, Louisiana also has drive-thru daiquiris, been there, done that. (They put a piece of tape over the opening for the straw on the lid.)

Here in Michigan you can get beer, wine and liquor with your groceries or gas or whatever, if the store has the right liquor license. About the only problem with liquor is a couple of governors ago (FuckingRepublican natch) the liquor distribution got privatized. It used to be that hard liquor was distributed by state liquor stores (those with liquor licenses for hard liquor would order from the state liquor stores), but I guess somebody thought there was money to be made and it got privatized.

bj said...

Pushing from the same side is the Baptist/Fundamentalist lobby who are having a hard time keeping track of exactly who in their congregation is going in and out of liquor stores .... think how difficult it would be for them to then have to post proctors at each end of each aisle of wine at each grocery store. THAT would be INSANE!! Most of the liquor quandary began during/after, and are a direct result of, the corrupt to the core administration of one Leonard Ray Blanton (place mug shot here), a Democrat who rode the publicity of the Watergate scandal to get elected, and who then immediately began pedaling liquor licenses to anyone and everyone ... for a price and a regular kick back. THAT sumbitch is responsible for my having voted REPUBLICAN one of the two times in my life.
I can't wait for the medical marijuana clinics to begin opening, here. Partly for all the fun and uproar it will cause ... and partly because ... sometimes? ... my leg hurts. Real bad ...

squatlo said...

Mooner and BJ: the haggard mom with her kids who would stop by the wine counter at Kroger ("I drink because you cry, honey...") is probably in dire need of this legislation. BJ's right about the Babtists monitoring the liquor stores, of course, just like they hang out in front of Planned Parenthood and Jill's Happy Ending Massage Therapy Emporium.

BJ's reference to Gov. Blanton leaves out his most lasting legacy: he was peddling prison pardons to his campaign contributors, and it got so bad near the end of his administration that a guy named Fred Thompson (bonk bonk to Senator Fred) had to help step in an push for an early inauguration for gov-elect Lamar! Alexander. Those of you who aren't familiar with TN politics can see our ex-Senator Fred on Law and Order reruns, and if you tune in on CSpan you can watch Sen. Lamar! holding forth on all things right wingy to this day.

We're so proud.

Katy Anders said...

You know, we've had dry counties here in Texas even during my lifetime. I don't know whether there are any remaining.

I know a guy who used to be a professor at a university in a dry county(?). he said that the Baptists would break into action every time it was proposed to lift the ban.

Finally, after decades of university students dying on the highways while coming back from parting in other counties, the people beat back the Baptists.

This stuff goes on everywhere. At least in the South...

bj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bj said...

Uhhh... Say, Squat .... uhh ... have you got an address ... for that ... uhh ... Jill's Happy Ending Massage Therapy Emporium place? 'Cause like I said ... sometimes? ... my leg hurts. Real bad ....

Randy Mealer said...

When I watched the news conference with the cops talking about the problems with wine in groceries, I just substituted the word guns and it made much more sense.

Sarge said...

Here in Hoosierland (Go IU!) we can buy hard liquor, beer and wine and hard liquor at groceries - no cold beer or wine sales permitted!
Stop and steal gas stations can sell only warm beer but cold wine. Figure that one out!
And, no package liquor is sold in Indiana on Sunday - unless at BX.
MY closest one was across town in INDY - Ft Campbell is 100 miles!



Mr. Charleston said...

I live in a state where they used to sell mixed drinks at drive-in windows so I'm no authority on this but I would wager that back in the old days the same moonshiners who divided up the state are today's owners of the territorial liquor stores.

pttenn said...

In my lovely little Alabama town, you cannot even buy beer at a carry-out OR grocery store. You have to go to a liquor store to buy beer. Strange......

Bustednuckles said...

Ah Feel Your Pain.

(Even though I finally quit the hootch six months ago)
Washington State was very similar with antiquated 'Blue Laws".
The State owned and ran all the liquor stores. That was all you could buy at one too. No beer,no soda, no smokes or snacks, just liquor.
You could buy beer and wine in the stores though.
That all changed this last year after the people voted to get the state out of the business. Now you can buy hard likker at Safeway if you want. They still have liquor stores but they are privately owned now.

Just for shits and grins, Washington just legalized weed too.
Now we can truly say we are the Evergreen State.
They haven't figured out how they are going to sell it yet but that is coming soon.

I have relatives in Tennessee and have been there myself. That "Dry County" shit is fucked up weird.

I can remember riding down I-80 and the county lines would jump back and forth across the highway in some places and my Uncle would point out the dry ones as we passed the county line. I finally made him stop in a wet one so I could get a couple of cases of beer, because we were going to my Grandfathers place and he lived in a dry county.
Even though I was born and raised on the Left Coast, I got Southern Boy blood in me. My mom and her mom were born in Missouri.

Now y'all know why I have such an affinity for all y'all.



squatlo said...

Phil (knuckles) We don't have too many dry counties in TN anymore, if there are any. For the most part, beer is cool just about everywhere, but liquor (or liquor by the drink at restaurants) is a little more touch and go.

I've never understood why something can be legal here and not there, or legal there and not here, when often it's just some arbitrary line on a surveyor's map that determines this county line or that one.

And why shouldn't a legal product be for sale seven days a week? What's the purpose or reasoning behind saying liquor is okay Monday thru Saturday, but on the "Sabbath" thou shalt not purchase Jack Daniels??? While the priest sips from the chalice of wine and tells you to go and sin no more...

A weed that grows wild on the side of the road and makes people happy is illegal, but one that requires cultivation, harvesting, and in the end kills half a million Americans annually is a cash crop farmers grow in every field?

If aliens came to Earth they would never understand our reasoning in a million years.